Tag Archives: Yorkshire

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, Part II: Whitley Beaumont

After the purge of Christmas food and several breeds of alcohol, the tendency is to tackle outdoors and attempt to go for a walk on Boxing Day. This year I thought I would seek out the landscape at Whitley Beaumont near Huddersfield based on my interest being sparked by the recent exhibition at Harrogate’s Mercer Gallery.

Whitley Beaumont Hall c.1900 ? Image taken from http://mirfield-2ndlook.info website

Whitley Beaumont Hall c.1900 ? Image taken from http://mirfield-2ndlook.info website

The house was demolished in the 1950s after exhaustive mining (and presently quarrying) took over the estate in similar fashion to many sites from Huddersfield to Sheffield. This wasn’t an easy discovery and the land is privately owned so there is only a certain level of access. Add to that two very busy roads, no proper space to park a car as well as imposing industrial barriers strongly suggesting no-go areas. However, several public footpaths skirting the edges of the parkland provided me with enough visual information to pinpoint aspects of the landscape as Brown and his patron intended.

Brown visited Whitley in the late 1770s but it is likely the land survey was undertaken by William Crossley, Snr from nearby Brighouse rather than Brown and his own men. Crossley is important for a few reasons as he would eventually move into surveying for the canal network working across much of Yorkshire particularly but had previously also assisted a William Jessop on several projects and may have known John Smeaton (from Leeds) who established a more efficient water system on the estate at Temple Newsam in the second half of the 18th century. To this extent Brown was not alone and there existed a comprehensive network of individuals jointly employed on sites or undertaking surveys for landowners for development or sale. The second half of the 18th century was a critical time where may landowners sought to enclose common land, achieve greater agricultural efficiency and develop their parkland for ornamental use. For the latter, Brown was the household name, but there were clearly regional pockets of surveyors who most certainly were aware of each other and their teams.

The Whitley estate was owned by Richard Henry Beaumont (1748-1810) at the time of Brown’s visit. The Beaumonts were a well established minor gentry family in West Yorkshire with marital ties across Yorkshire. Beaumont wished to have something in tune with current trends, but compared to the estates of the elite Whitley may never have been intended as something showy. On closer inspection, the existing landscape suggests that this may not have been possible anyway as there is little space for slow carriage drives, open parkland and sweeping lawns. The site is relatively compact with creaking turns accommodating the sharp rise and fall of the land.

What was intended by Beaumont and Brown still incorporated the trademark carriage drive which wound through woodland and out into meadow; this was in marked contrast to the dead straight approach from the north which had previously failed to absorb any other part of the estate. Further rides took the visitor around the edges of the estate, and attempts to smooth the land with the use of ha-has are all still visible on the edge of low lying woodland today. The Brown signature clumps of trees were also established and much of these are visible from the air and from the ground including Deer Hill (as seen below). I could only approach from one side of the old estate and the map below shows where the images were taken.

Ordnance Survey section dating from 1894 (old-maps repository online)

Ordnance Survey section dating from 1894 (old-maps repository online website)

 

Modern satellite image of Whitley Beaumont - Google imaging

Modern satellite image of Whitley Beaumont – Google imaging

Given that there must be scars across the site from extensive mining in the 1940s, it has done little to take away the feeling of awe for the viewer.

Image from point one on the map, facing north east through woodland and across the bridge in Coal Pit Scroggs. Author's own image

Image from Point One on the 1894 map, facing north east through woodland and across the bridge at Coal Pit Scrog. (Author’s own image).

Approaching directly from the village of Lepton to the south, I followed the road north east to Whitley Beaumont Scout Camp in the direction of the parkland and continued across the opening downwards to the stream and dip in the woodland where a part of the old carriage drive appeared to stretch out but actually ended in impassable shrubs and dense overgrowth. Signs that the Brown landscape were added to in the 19th century are visible in the plantations of azaleas and rhododendrons – a now troublesome part of the overgrowth unfortunately!

View from Point Two n the 1894 map looking northwards toward to site of the house. (Author's own image).

View from Point Two on the 1894 map looking northwards towards the site of the house. (Author’s own image).

Eventually reaching the edge of the woodland from a slight turn of direction it was possible to frame the section of high ground on which the house would have stood. The image left should give an idea of the rise of the land in all directions to the north, east and west. The house would have been just over the crest of the hill to the left of the patch of woodland. The kitchen gardens (a section of wall still exists at the edge of the woodland) were situated further towards where the image was taken and are visible on the 1894 map.

View looking out eastwards from Point Three on the 1894 map. The image shows Deer Hill. (Author's own image).

View looking out eastwards from Point Three on the 1894 map. The image shows Deer Hill. (Author’s own image).

Turning south and following the farm track for a few steps another view pinpoints one of a few clumps of trees. Again the sense of height should be clear and from both the house and Deer Hill it is obvious that the views would have been spectacular across this part of Yorkshire. Today one of the most striking features is not of this period but is instead that of Emley Moor TV mast further south (out of frame and to the right in the image above).

There were two follies at Whitley but only one remains in part which is seen from Liley Lane and formed part of the earlier straight north approach. This is known as The Temple on old Ordnance Survey maps or later as ‘Black Dick’s Tower’. Another temple or monument stood close to Deer Hill and a dark speck on the 1894 map is visible of this building which has long since been cleared away. I have not been able to trace a date for the latter building, but neither construction have little to do with Brown and his designs.

Very little of the family papers have been published but what primary documentation exists appears to be fairly extensive, not to mention the exterior and interior details of the house itself which once stood at the site. Local history groups and projects have also been set up which have ventured out past the barriers with the correct permission and I have listed a few of these since their own explorations have thrown up fantastic images of the remnants of the 18th century landscape.

When Brown drew up plans for Temple Newsam the optimism was severely challenged once work began and huge swathes of ground were churned over for planting and creating the desired open grandeur of lawn and unbroken green. At Whitley, the level of work involved is now clear amongst the overgrowth and patches of woodland – the removal and alteration of these being only a part of what may have been a similar task in creating the original ornamental landscape for Richard Henry Beaumont in the 1770s. The ‘capabilities’ of which Brown noted time and again suggest vision for a site and how it might be manipulated, but also the realistic degree of work involved. Whitley is indeed compact in comparison to the elegant Stowe and has a roughness around the edges due to its recent industrial past, yet it remains a true example of the lengths humans will go to in order to alter the natural environment both in light of 18th century desires and the equivalent modern-day exploitation.

Links to local projects and sites:

http://thefolliesofyouth.co.uk/?page_id=25 and http://thefolliesofyouth.co.uk/?page_id=176

http://wyorksarchivestreasures.weebly.com/beaumont-of-whitley-family-and-estate-records.html

Follies relating to the Beaumont family including ‘Whitley Moor Gazebo’ http://jimjarratt.co.uk/follies/page20.html

Child friendly walks around Whitley http://www.kirkburtonparishwalks.co.uk/Grange%20Mo…pdf

More general links including local news

Black Dick’s Tower http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/black-dicks-famous-tower-could-5082838

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitley_Beaumont

http://www.lostheritage.org.uk/houses/lh_yorkshire_whitleybeaumont_info_gallery.html

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/beaumont-sir-richard-1574-1631

http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/lepton-estate-capability-brown-9100637

Location of Beaumont family archives http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/rd/b69946eb-8d76-4e39-8f22-a9db6f034d7f

 

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Filed under Men and the Country House, Parks and Gardens, The Destruction of the Country House

Press release: Preservation trust to acquire Wentworth Woodhouse

The following is a Press Release made by Save Britain’s Heritage. This is fantastic news and totally tips the balance in favour of a more local, regional and national plan of action which benefits so many. As before, fingers crossed for the future! Many thanks to readers of this blog for highlighting the link especially (see below for the full link).

3 February 2016

Press release: Preservation trust to acquire Wentworth Woodhouse

SAVE is delighted to announce that agreement has been reached with the Newbold family on the purchase of one of the finest and grandest historic houses in Britain, Wentworth Woodhouse.

The property will be purchased by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) and will continue to be open to the public.  The public opening of the property will be supported by the National Trust for the first five years. It is hoped completion of the sale will take place within two to three months.

The £7m pledged for the acquisition includes a £3.575m grant offer from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and grants from the Monument Trust, the Art Fund, Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement and the John Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust. Pledges and donations have also been received from many individual members of the public. SAVE and the trustees of the WWPT extend their warmest thanks for all pledges and support received.

The long term strategy is for the public to visit and enjoy all the most interesting parts of the property while restoring the others for revenue-earning uses such as events and holiday lets with business units in the stables. Traditionally a historic house of this size would have required a vast endowment.  This business model will provide a substantial income stream intended to cover both running costs and periodic bouts of repair.

Extensive repairs will be phased over 10 to 15 years allowing time for funds to be raised and the work to be carried out in phases while the property is opened to the public.

The Trust will build on the pioneering work of the Newbold family in opening the house to pre-booked visitors for the first time on a regular basis.  An annual Clifford Newbold lecture will be held to mark the work of the Newbold family in opening the house to the public.

The trustees of the new WWPT are: The Duke of Devonshire, Lady Juliet Tadgell, Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland, Julie Kenny (Chair), Timothy Cooke, Martin Drury, and Merlin Waterson.

For more information please contact Marcus Binney or Mike Fox at SAVE on 0207 253 3500 or mike.fox@savebritainsheritage.org, or Julie Kenny, Chair of WWPT, on 01709 535218

 

Notes to Editors:

The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust has been established to secure the long term future of Wentworth Woodhouse.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.

Press release issued by SAVE Britain’s Heritage

70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ

Registered Charity 269129

Tel. 020 7253 3500  Email office@savebritainsheritage.org

www.savebritainsheritage.org

Follow SAVE on Twitter: @SAVEBrit

Donate to SAVE via Justgiving

 

Full Press Release here:

Click to access 03.02_.16_Press_Release_-_Preservation_Trust_to_Acquire_WW_.pdf

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Filed under In the News, restoration, The Destruction of the Country House, The running of the country house

‘Wonder! Wonder! Wonder!’ The experimental philosopher comes to Nostell Priory

Having been greatly entertained by the recent series of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on BBC One, it reminded me of something I stumbled across a while ago when still researching the social history of Nostell Priory in Yorkshire. Needless to say, the suitably impressive Yorkshire locations chosen by the BBC for the drama meant I would also be wasting a golden opportunity to show some hidden connections to both the themes and backdrop of the series.

Filming at Oakwell Hall. From The Huddersfield Daily Examiner (15 May 2015).

Filming at Oakwell Hall. From The Huddersfield Daily Examiner (15 May 2015).

The drama is an adaptation of a book of the same name by Susanna Clarke and much of the reviews highlight the work as historical fiction and fantasy. Set in the early nineteenth century, the theory and practice of magic is the very heart of the tale and allows Clarke to subvert traditional systems and social frameworks such as class and industry: the north of England is mystical not industrial and the black servant may yet be destined to be a king. On a wider scale even Englishness itself is toyed with.

The drama is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and the Battle of Waterloo more specifically. The latter saw its 200 year anniversary only recently on the 18th June. Therefore there is obviously something immensely topical about the timing of the production. And yet, there is intentional English patriotism which sees the English Army and Navy look for ever more inventive ways to defeat the niggling French enemy of old. Here’s where Strange and Norrell attempt to give English magic a firm platform from which it can be taken seriously once again.

I’m all for an eerie tale of make-believe set against gritty real life and the human condition, moral codes and physical frailties. I think it helps us see the past better. And so, it made me recall a snippet I read in the Leeds Intelligencer dated 12 December 1786 about a Dr. Katterfelto who had been to stay at Lady Winn’s at Nostell for 5 nights and had therefore missed an engagement in town. That engagement was to be his first lecture in Leeds and one which was to have incorporated the varied themes of ‘philosophical, mathematical, electrical, magnetical, optical, physical, pneumatic, hydraulic, hydrostatic, proctic, and styangraphic art.’ In other words, he was experimental!

18th-century contemporary print of Gustavus Katterfelto

18th-century contemporary print of Gustavus Katterfelto

Gustavus Katterfelto was Belgium-born and had been keen to make a name for himself in London using his Solar Microscope with which he claimed the ‘insects’ causing the flu pandemic of 1782 could be seen. By 1784 his shows had attracted royalty. However, Katterfelto wasn’t so great at handling fame when it did catch up with him. The public inevitably raised concerns about the freedom given to his ‘insects’ and whether they were implicit in spreading the flu. Such bad press persuaded Katterfelto to publicise the death of his ‘insects’ in some terrible accident. Within days Katterfelto had suddenly been struck with the flu himself…or so he wanted people to believe. He took to travelling north to Yorkshire and frequently visited Whitby. Throughout the region he attempted to sell elixirs and perform conjuring tricks in the form of lectures in order to maintain an air of scientific capability and mysticism hinting that his powers and the black cats with which he entertained had demonic origins.

katterfelto balloon

The new mail carriers, or Montgolfier and Katterfelto taking an airing in balloons. From The Ramblers Magazine, 1784. The British Museum.

Sabine, Lady Winn (nee d’Herwart) was of Swiss French origin and had come to Nostell Priory in the mid 1760s as the wife of Sir Rowland Winn later the 5th Baronet. Although vivacious and carefree, Sabine struggled to connect with Rowland’s extended family and was perpetually concerned with health matters especially those associated with aging. When Rowland died in an accident in 1785, Sabine withdrew from public life and became reclusive. Katterfelto’s presence in her adopted land must have presented her with a cause to reclaim something of her former self.

Without doubt it was Sabine’s hypochondriac nature that made Katterfelto so attractive a guest. And just like Jonathan Strange and Norrell his occupation brought hope as well as wonderment. Here is a simple snippet, an apology for absence reported in the local press, but Katterfelto would have been well-received at Nostell Priory by the  the reclusive Lady Winn. There is nothing unbecoming or untoward about the meeting – Sabine is difficult to analyse for sure but during her widowhood suffered greatly from sheer detachment – this strange conjurer was something of a curiosity. He came from the continent like Sabine, and had also experienced high society which he too had chosen to dismiss. For five nights they would have discussed these, the borders between conjuring and science, and the study of disease and general maladies.

Having studied Sabine for a long time, I admit it is difficult to see her as a truly compassionate creature. There is something frivolous about her personality. Yet, I like to think that her guest offered a mix of magic and awe, but also philosophical debate which had been dismantled from her social life since the untimely death of her husband. And here is the human condition laid out in similar fashion throughout Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Human frailties – disease, madness, mortality, and loneliness are challenged but to win is to come at a heavy price. We hope that magic can exist when really it is the imagination which provides the best means of survival.

So these men are intellectually alluring as well as captivating in their occupation. What the book and BBC adaptation alludes to so well is the setting and the involvement of the elite in the promotion and manipulation of these characters. Lady Winn plays host to Katterfelto, but she is intrigued by him in the same way any number of wealthy individuals are in the early episodes of the TV drama. Like Mr. Norrell, Katterfelto is invited into sumptuous town houses and country residences. He put himself on display and attempted to champion something loosely based on academic theory and practice.

Dancing for Lost Hope – or in the Great Hall at Wentworth Woodhouse.

Though Nostell doesn’t feature in the BBC drama adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, it struck me that the Yorkshire locations are linked by fine threads. We see furniture made for Nostell in the bookshop (a withdrawing room at Temple Newsam), and the immense facade and austere interiors of the mighty Wentworth Woodhouse – a political base for the Rockinghamites and close friends of the Winn family. Indeed, the majority of locations are interlinked somewhere because they are in Yorkshire and therefore neighbours. Norrell is a Yorkshireman in full stereotype; he is stubborn and earthy, cautious yet outspoken. I wonder what Katterfelto thought of Yorkshire in the end, afterall, he didn’t leave – he died in 1799 and was buried at Bedale Church!

Further reading:

David Paton-Williams, Katterfelto: Prince of Puff (Leicester), 2008

Links:

Gustavus Katterfelto http://www.geniimagazine.com/magicpedia/Gustavus_Katterfelto and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustavus_Katterfelto

http://www.obscurehistories.com/#!katterfeltos-live-insects/c1t0t

Jonathan Strange, Mr. Norrell and their creator author Susanna Clarke https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Strange_%26_Mr_Norrell and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susanna_Clarke

BBC locations for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2y60xGs7C1QpyLkx4zBpcPl/where-was-jonathan-strange-mr-norrell-filmed

General overview of locations for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell http://www.creativeengland.co.uk/story/where-was-bbc-drama-jonathan-strange-and-mr-norrell-filmed-

Filming in Yorkshire http://www.creativeengland.co.uk/story/i-love-filming-in…yorkshire

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Filed under In the News, The Nostell Project, Women and the Country House

A Christmas Ball.

40773The following is a short but charming excerpt from Backstairs Life in a Country House by Eileen Balderson with Douglas Goodlad (1982). Eileen Balderson was born in 1916, and as the youngest of a large family left school early to start employment in domestic service mainly in large country houses. Many of her reminiscences come from her time spent at particular houses like Burwarton House (Shropshire), Rise Park (East Yorkshire) and Middleton Hall (East Yorkshire).

Here, Eileen discusses the breathtaking seasonal entertainments, of which Christmas was one. She then recalls some of the seasonal Dinner menus – the Winter one is added at the end here!

*******

Never again would there be such entertaining as in the pre-war years. Never again such hosts – or guests!

The big houses were full of music and colour at party time…When there was a big shooting party, there were a number of visiting servants…If the local hunt met at the house all the mounted followers were offered a drink – port, sherry, cherry brandy, sloe gin, with whisky for the huntsmen and whips, and others who asked for it. I longed to try the sloe gin, which was made in the house. Alas, it was locked in the butler’s pantry.

In houses with upwards of twenty in staff, a servant’s ball was held around Christmas time. The ball with the gentlemen of the house having the first dance with the cook and his lady danced with the butler. My sister dropped an awful brick at a house where she was head kitchen-maid. The eldest son of the family asked her for the first dance. Not knowing who he was, she said she was engaged for that turn around the floor! The mistake is readily explained. Except for the butler’s pantry staff and the lady’s maid, the rest of the servants very rarely saw the family, the kitchen staff least of all.

Master and mistress stayed for about half an hour and after a toast to them they left. The ball then got going, but was fairly respectable and sober until the butler, cook and their guests had gone. After that, it was really enjoyable! As the ball did not usually start until about 10pm we were out of bed for most of the night. It was work again in the morning, and a case of wash and change and into uniform for a day’s duty without sleep, but not without sustenance. There would no doubt be some tasty leftovers.

Winter Dinner Menus

Chicken Soup

Fish Quenelles

Fillets of Beef

Japanese Artichokes

Stewed Normandy Pippins

Whipped Cream

Sardines a la Piedmontaise

***

Rice and Tomato Soup

Fillets of Plaice with Green Peas

Salmi of Game

Potato Fritters

Pear and Chestnut Tart

Cheese Ramequins

***

Mutton Broth

Stuffed Fillets of Haddock

Curried Chicken     Boiled Rice

Cold Apricot Souffle

Savoury Brain Croutes

Rise Hall, Yorkshire (British History Online).

Rise Hall, Yorkshire (British History Online).

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Filed under Book reviews, Servants, Women and the Country House

The News for the New Year: an Exhibition for Nostell Priory.

Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet and his wife Sabine Louise Winn in the library at Nostell Priory, 1770.

Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet and his wife Sabine Louise Winn in the library at Nostell Priory, 1770 (copyright National Trust Collection).

Over three years ago the archive of the Winn family of Nostell Priory, Yorkshire were put into the ownership of the West Yorkshire Archives Service* under the jurisdiction of Wakefield Metropolitan Council as part of an Acceptance in Lieu grant.

I was still floating about in a post doctoral haze and was in need of something new to get my claws into.

I had written about Nostell Priory, especially Sabine Winn, the wife of the 5th Baronet (both pictured above) and her role as household manager including her relationship with the Nostell servants. So, wherever I went, whoever I spoke with, whatever I wanted to research, Nostell Priory was always there – looming.

Not surprisingly, the thought of being able to make a complete fuss about the importance of keeping the Winn family papers in Yorkshire was going to be very high on my agenda.

Together with the expertise of a senior academic from the University of Leeds, in May 2010 research began for an exhibition (and book) to be held at the house commencing in 2015. The working title for this is ‘From House to Home’, and will focus on two generations of the family – Sir Rowland Winn, 4th Baronet and his son the 5th Baronet and his wife.

Our ambitions are grand, to be sure, and we are hoping to show how rich these papers are. Nostell Priory is associated with famous names in architecture and design including Thomas Chippendale, the Adam Brothers, James Paine, as well as fine art by Kauffman, Zucchi and Brueghel. Yet, the Winn family papers also reveal several interesting layers in social and cultural history. The exhibition will therefore highlight many themes associated with country house living in the eighteenth century and attempt to show the relationships the Winns had with their architects, suppliers, extended family, and staff, as well as demonstrate the eccentricities of particular family members and how they came to be perceived by society.

Ultimately, the exhibition will encourage visitors to think about how an elite family like the Winns made their mark in the cultural landscape of the period at regional and national levels through their consumer tastes, shopping habits, sociability, and of course, their house.

*********

My intention is to provide updates here as the project progresses, and any comments and questions are welcome, so long as they’re constructive!

*The papers are of great importance to the nation, their location at the West Yorkshire Archives Service (WYAS) however is something the region is understandably proud of given the associations with well-known names. The papers were recently voted as one of the Archives’ treasures by the public and archive staff, and in May 2012 the WYAS received a £37,000 grant to complete and improve the Winn family papers.

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Filed under Architecture and Design, Building the Country House, Collections, The Nostell Project

Women’s History Month.

          The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society.   (Taken from The Library of Congress website for Women’s History Month)

          Women’s History Month is not something generally celebrated in Britain – we are an apathetic sort by nature – and the idea of having a single month every year out of a whole twelve of them seems a little odd to celebrate 50 (or more) percent of the world’s population. Still, the country house and its relative subject areas are perfectly ripe for discussion on great female contribution. Not all wives and daughters were submissive creatures housing simple notions of motherhood and companionship, many could be forthright individuals who made life interesting for themselves and all around them. Furthermore, female servants were not always young delicate nymphs with idle streaks, as some were resilient country women who were proud hard-working people living away from their families and friends. There were women who grew up in a country house and made a difference to the wider world, but Women’s History Month has at its heart the celebration of female strength and diversity.

          In all my research over the years, several of those I’ve written about require greater attention. Often there are insufficient records to allow for deeper exploration, and you have to imagine what these people were like without documented proof. A favourite example however, was a woman called Isabella Ingram nee Machell (c.1670-1764) an heiress from Sussex who lived at Temple Newsam in Leeds as wife to the third Viscount Irwin (1666-1702) and her personal maid Mildred Batchelor. Some of Isabella’s personal papers have survived to this day and reveal Isabella to have been a somewhat diplomatic character; an interventionist, as well as intelligent, earnest and pragmatic. Mildred was her female companion who she may have employed once established in her Leeds home. She too was earthy, diplomatic and intelligent.

Isabella, Viscountess Irwin, nee Machell (1670-1764) attributed to John Closterman.

          Isabella was married to Arthur Ingram in about 1685, and although their families probably secured the match, their relationship was incredibly affectionate. Her portrait depicts her as fair and beautiful following not only the contemporary conventions of beauty, but even those of today. The portrait of Arthur shows him to have been a robust sportsman surrounded by his hounds and meaty game. These pictorial depictions are not far from the characters offered up by the surviving documentation. There was an air of refinement about Isabella which Arthur did not have, and their correspondence suggests their relationship was definitely based on opposites attract.

          Isabella and Arthur had nine sons until Arthur’s premature death in 1702. As a trustee and executor of her husband’s estate she was able to live at Temple Newsam. She chose not to remarry, perhaps in order to keep a close eye on her sons’ affairs. Isabella kept meticulous accounts, and scrutinised the daily household account books, signing each yearly summary. Her own pocket book demonstrates a careful nature, but also highlights her small extravagances such as losses at the card table, the purchase of ribbons and lace, and fine shoes. On the other hand, she was charitable and generous with those around her and would assist in the payment of a servant’s funeral expenses, or the cost of nursing a sick servant using her own cash. Isabella was also typically practical for an elite housewife of the time, and she got involved in the general running of the house, as well as monitoring the estate activities.

          Isabella had just become a mother again at the time of her husband’s death, and for a while she became very dependant upon her closest friends and most reliable servants. As well as the steward John Roades, Mildred Batchelor was one of these, and eagerly stepped up to help her mistress in household affairs. In particular, Mildred gave Isabella support when it came to the personal needs of the nine boys: arranging for their transport to school and ordering their clothing and laundry. There are surviving scraps of correspondence between the two women, and although they contain important notes concerning the health of Isabella’s sons or general household matters, there is a friendly tone to them. Their friendship was certainly strong, even when Mildred left service to marry John Roades in 1707. The following year she had a child for whom Isabella offered herself as godmother, and Mildred was never far away if her old mistress required some assistance.

          By 1718, Isabella decided to give up her residency at Temple Newsam after the marriage of her second son to a daughter of the Earl of Carlisle at Castle Howard. From her new home in Windsor, Isabella could manage the schooling of her younger boys but still remain in contact with her family in Yorkshire. Her sons held her in considerable awe and she could be extremely ill-tempered if crossed. Isabella even threatened the older boys with litigation in order to protect the interests of the younger ones. A quarrel with her second eldest son over payments of legacies to his younger siblings angered Isabella and she made her feelings clear in every which way possible. She even annotated a letter intended as a conciliatory device by the Temple Newsam steward with, ‘Friendly advice to give up my just writ from an ungrateful son wholly governed by ye proud house of ye Howards who never served anybody but for their own interest’.

          Isabella lived to be 94 years old. Perhaps this longevity could be put down to plenty of tea drinking in her lifetime, as her accounts testify to her varied consumption of several types of tea. With the birth of nine children, she was certainly a strong woman though, and definitely a formidable character. If you were fortunate to find good footing with her, she was undoubtedly a friend for life. Mildred Batchelor remained in Yorkshire, but it is likely she stayed in contact with Isabella after the latter moved to Windsor. There is patchy correspondence after this date, and whilst Isabella maintained her personal accounts and left documentation behind, Mildred disappeared into obscurity. Her life was more conventional in that she worked, became a wife, and then a mother and supported her husband. It could be suggested that Isabella allowed Mildred a brief historical presence in her surviving records, but this is no bad thing. The two women supported each other for several years, indeed Mildred was Isabella’s ‘right-hand woman’, so perhaps Isabella has been able to repay her with a different kind of longevity.

          Isabella was not a compliant submissive creature. Mildred was not a flighty servant girl. The women were great companions of similar ages who existed in each other’s lives when they needed each other the most; a country house enabled their partnership to evolve.

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Filed under Servants, Women and the Country House

Thomas Chippendale Country House Commissions 1757-1779

'Violin' bookcase made for the Earl of Pembroke 1763, Wilton House.

          Having written very recently on the late eighteenth-century inventory of Harewood House, Yorkshire, I thought this might be a useful adage to the Thomas Chippendale pool of knowledge! Although Chippendale, and his son Thomas Chippendale the Younger are well-known names – often overwhelmingly so, their craftsmanship still receives great interest. The following list is not exhaustive and there may be houses which have been wrongly linked with Chippendale, but I am dependant on a mixture of old and relatively up-to-date sources – besides I am no Chippendale expert!

         As F. Gordon Roe points out in Old English Furniture, ‘…the tendency to label almost everything of certain types ‘Chippendale’ has robbed other leading craftsmen or designers of their due share of credit … On the other hand, some writers have perhaps tended unduly to minimize Chippendale’s importance, for though it is obvious that his firm could not have produced more than a fraction of the work so freely assigned to it, he was evidently a craftsman of outstanding merit.’ (p. 9) Not every commission was extensive, and some patrons may have desired only one or two pieces for their remodelled library or state rooms, others demanded entire suites of furniture. In either case, we should remember that Chippendale was not a lone craftsman and may rarely have even touched the pieces which left his London workshop.

THE HOUSES.

  • Alscot Park, Warwickshire, for James West, 1760-67.
  • Appuldurcombe House, Isle of Wight, for Sir Richard Worsley 1776-78. (Only the shell remains and is now owned by English Heritage).
  • Arniston, Midlothian, for Lord and Lady Arniston, 1757.
  • Aske Hall, Yorkshire, for Sir Laurence Dundas 1763-66.
  • Audley End, Essex, for Sir John Griffin, 1774.
  • Badminton House, Gloucestershire for the Duchess of Beaufort, 1764.
  • Blair Castle, Perthshire, for the Duke of Athol, 1758.
  • ? Boynton Hall, Yorkshire, for Sir George Strickland, 1768?
  • Brockenhurst Park, Hampshire, for Edward Morant, 1769.
  • Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, for Lord Melbourne, 1771-76.
  • Burton Constable, Yorkshire, for William Constable, 1768-79 (also for his London home in Mansfield Square).
  • Cannon Hall, Yorkshire, for John Spencer, 1768.
  • Corsham Court, Wiltshire, for Paul Methuen, 1779.
  • Croome Court, Worcestershire, for the Earl of Coventry, 1764-70 (also his London home 29 Piccadilly).
  • Dalmahoy, Midlothian, for the 14th Earl of Morton, 1762.
  • Dalton Hall, Yorkshire, for Charles Hotham-Thompson, 1777.
  • Denton Park, Otley, Yorkshire, for James Ibbetson (Chippendale’s only commission within his own parish).
  • Dumfries House, Ayrshire, for the 5th Earl of Dumfries, 1759-66.
  • ? Firle Place, Sussex, for Sir Thomas Gage, 1770s?
  • Foremark Hall, Derbyshire, for Sir Robert Burdett, 1766-74.
  • Goldsborough Hall, Yorkshire, for Daniel Lascelles 1771-76.
  • Goodneston, Kent, for Sir Brook Bridges, 1765.
  • Harewood House, Yorkshire, for Edwin Lascelles, 1769-76.
  • Hestercombe House, Somerset, for Coplestone Ware Bamfylde, no date.
  • Langton Hall, Yorkshire, for Thomas Norcliffe, 1767.
  • Kenwood House, Middlesex, for the 1st Ealr of Mansfield, 1769.
  • Mersham le Hatch, Kent, for Sir Edward Knatchbull, 1767-79.
  • Newby Hall, Yorkshire, for William Weddell, c.1772-76.
  • Normanton Park, Rutland, for Sir Gilbert Heathcote 1768-79.
  • Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, for Sir Rowland Winn 1766-79 (also his London home 11 St James’s Square).
  • Paxton House, Berwickshire, for Ninian Home ,1774.
  • Petworth House, Sussex, for the Earl of Egremont, 1777-78.
  • Saltram House, Devon, for Lord Boringdon, 1771.
  • Sandon Hall, Staffordshire, for the Earl of Harrowby, 1763-77.
  • Sherbourne Castle, Dorset, for Earl Digby, 1774.
  • Stourhead House, Wiltshire, for Sir Richard Colt Hoare (Thomas Chippendale the Younger, 1790s).
  • Stowe House, Buckinghamshire, for Earl Temple, 1757.
  • Temple Newsam House, Yorkshire, for Viscount Irwin 1774 (and Chippendale the Younger, 1790s).
  • Thoresby Park, Nottinghamshire, for the Duke of Kingston, 1770.
  • Wilton House, Wiltshire, for the Earl of Pembroke 1762-73 (also his London home Pembroke House).
  • Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, for the Earl of Hardwicke, 1777.
  • Wolverley House, Worcestershire, for Edward Knight Jnr., 1763-69.

Japanned wardrobe, Nostell Priory.

Half round or sidetables made for Denton Hall, now on display at Temple Newsam.

Bookcase at Dumfries House

References:

Oliver Brackett, Thomas Chippendale: A Study of His Life, Work, and Influence(1924). The Burlington Magazine. Vol. 122, No. 927, (June, 1980). 
 
Anthony Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture: The Work of Thomas Chippendale and His Contemporaries in the Rococo Taste (1968).
 
Christopher Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale,(1978).Peter Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the Eighteenth Century (1958).
 
Clifford Musgrave, Adam and Hepplewhite and Other NeoClassical Furniture (1966).
 
 
Links:
 
Thomas Chippendale on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Chippendale
 
Thomas Chippendale. The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director: being a large collection of the most elegant and useful designs of household furniture in the Gothic, Chinese and modern taste. (1754). Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture. University of Wisconsin.  http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/DLDecArts/DLDecArts-idx?id=DLDecArts.ChippGentCab

The Chippendale Society http://www.thechippendalesociety.co.uk/index.htm

Useful biography of Thomas Chippendale (in need of modernising!) http://216.92.23.157/chippendale/chronology.htm

Ronald Phillips Antiques – fantastic images of Chippendale furniture  http://www.ronaldphillipsantiques.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=5&categoryID=7777

Learn the Chippendale way! http://www.chippendale.co.uk/

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A Harewood House Inventory, 1795.

          The following details are from a copy of an inventory taken upon the death of Edwin Lascelles, Lord Harewood in 1795. [1] The inventory itself is vast and covers the entire house from bottom to top and back again. Inventories of country houses are fascinating because of the depth of information you can retrieve from them simply by discovering the types of items belonging to specific rooms. Not only do you get a sense of how the house was used overall, and by whom, but also their tastes, interests and personal routines. And within the country house specifically, it is possible to view the social microcosm established through owner and staff members. The richness of textures, ornament, the variety of goods, and the storage of chattels reveals the very ordinary day-to-day routines, but highlights the contemporary trends of the time at which the inventory was taken. 

          The very obvious value of this document lies with the fame of those involved in creating the house. Shortly after the death of his father Henry Lascelles in 1753, Edwin commissioned John Carr (1723-1807) to design a new house on the Harewood estate; by 1759 the foundation stone was laid. Robert Adam (1728-1792) was working on designs for the interiors by the mid 1760s and Yorkshire-born Thomas Chippendale  (1718-1779) was made responsible for the furniture and furnishings. For the latter it would be his most grand of commissions, and it no doubt helped in elevating his name as cabinet-maker amongst the elite and aristocracy. However, getting the commissioner to pay for work could be along drawn-out affair. Questions over a substantial payment from Lascelles arose in 1771 (a sum of £3,024 -19 – 0d was still outstanding), but were not settled until 1777. Chippendale’s work is evident throughout the entire 1795 inventory of Harewood House and some of these pieces are highlighted below, indeed many are still in situ within the house. Yet, it would be repetitive to include too much discussion on Chippendale’s large contribution to Harewood. Much research into attribution continues today and The Chippendale Society provides many talks and tours of key collections. The motive here is to examine the diversity of goods at a universally renowned British country house at a significant moment in its history. As the guidebook states, ‘… Edwin Lascelles inherited a manor, spent carefully and left a mansion.’

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There are over 90 rooms at Harewood, including closet spaces and passageways. To give an idea of the layout of the inventory, this is a sample of the goods and chattels for the Dining Room.

1   Grate, Fender, Tongs,  Poker & Hearth Brush      

Harewood dining room guidebook

Harewood House Dining Room (Harewood House Trust)

1   Turkey Carpet and green serge cover

3   Crimson Damask Window Curtains

3   White Canvas Window Blinds

2   Mahogany Sophas covered with Red Leather

20  Mahogany Chairs ditto

2   Sideboard Tables with inlaid Tops and brass ornaments

2   Pedestals & Vauses to suit ditto

1   Oval Winekeeper with brass ornament

1   Face Fire Screen

3   Urns upon Pedestals

 

          The dining room at Harewood received a massive overhaul during the nineteenth century when Sir Charles Barry was called in to make alterations to the house in the 1840s under the watchful eye of Louisa, Lady Harewood wife of Henry, 3rd Earl of Harewood. For this reason, the dining room as viewed today against the 1795 inventory offers an insight into how the room has changed depending on the needs of a household. Barry raised the ceiling and by deepening the room abolished an arched recess making the space more symmetrical and clearly larger in order to accommodate the 3rd Earl, his wife, their thirteen children and any guests. Adam’s original plans for the room – including the arched recess (originally where the fireplace wall is pictured above) had niches for the urns on pedestals, space for a sideboard and wine-cooler. Before the room was completed, the fireplace was given prominence within the recess instead and the sideboards, urns on pedestals and wine-cooler were placed against flanking walls where they remain today. As is also visible in the image , the 20 mahogany chairs covered with red leather still remain too, albeit surrounding a nineteenth-century dining table!

          In later years, some of the contents were sold or broken up. Take for example furniture from the the Couch Room (now part of the Watercolour Rooms or East Bedroom) where the 1795 inventory lists 1 French Couch Bedstead with Dome Top in burnished gold and crimson damask hangings. The dome top was ornamented with a crane about two feet high in gilt

Harewood Library Writing Table now at Temple Newsam House

lime wood, but when the bed was broken up in the nineteenth century, many pieces were lost or discarded. The crane eventually reappeared at a minor sale and was acquired by the Chippendale Society to be put on display at Temple Newsam House in Leeds. As the home of the Chippendale Society, Temple Newsam House holds a good deal of furniture from the original Chippendale commission at Harewood. The most magnificent is surely the library writing table, listed in the 1795 inventory as 1 Large inlaid Library Table with Brass Ornaments. The table was sold in 1965 to help pay for Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s death duties.

          The compiler of the inventory entered the house at basement level starting in the kitchen, scullery and larders, he then turned back on himself to get to the still room and housekeeper’s room on the other side of the main basement passageway. Next came the steward’s rooms, butler’s room and pantries, closets and some servant bedrooms including private entertaining space used by Edwin Lascelles – the coffee room and billiard room. The coffee room contained a wild mixture of delicate and sturdy objects which suggest the taste and interests of Lascelles before his death. There were 45

19th century versions of Wedgwood black basalt sphinxes

Copperplate & Metzotinto Pictures with Frames and Glasses, 2 China Flower Pots over the Fireplace, 2 Small Jars over the door, 4 Small Beasts, 4 Shells, 2 Mahogany Pedistals, 2 Lions on pedistals, 2 Mahogany Dining Tables, 2 Breakfast Tables, 1 Two headed Couch with 2 Bolsters, & 1 Cushion Covered with Needle Work, 10 Oval backed Satton Wood Chairs covered with Needle Work, and 1 Old Easy Chair with leather bottom & covered. Similarly, the billiard room contained amongst other things, 1 Turnup Bed with Moreen Hangings, 2 Pillows, 3 Blankets, 1 Counterpane, 6 Mahogany Armed Chairs with Red leather Bottoms, 1 Mahogany Library Table, 2 Bookstands painted green, 3 China Jars, 4 China Figures, and 2 Black Wedgwood Sphinxes.

          From these rooms, the compiler entered into the passageway and on towards the maids area of the basement including stores, cleaning rooms and dairy. He lists several more bedrooms and storage spaces until reaching the

Harewood State Bed

servants’ hall before ascending the staircase (probably the main staircase) to get to the Great Hall on the principal floor. Most of the rooms on this floor are open to the public today, and as with the example of the dining room above, much of the furniture still survives from the time of the 1795 inventory. Some pieces have been moved to other rooms, some have stayed in the room for which they were intended like the State Bedroom with 1 Bedstead with Dome Top in burnished Gold & green Damask Hangings, 1 Green Damask Counterpane, and 2 Green Damask Window Curtains. Travelling in the opposite direction to the modern-day visitor route, the compiler came back to the main stairs where he noted 2 Vauses, 6 Green & gold Pedestals & Lamps, 1 Clock & Mahogany Case, and 1 Model of a Ship and a Stand. From here he ascended the main stairs to the attic storey or lodging rooms. A total of 14 lodgings with corresponding dressing rooms are recorded and all named according to the design of the wallpaper and furnishings; for example the Purple Cotton Room, the Blue Stripe Room, the Feather Cotton Room, the Bamboo Room, the Red Lodging Room, the Yellow Chintz Room, the Pea Green Room, and the Crimson Room. These form part of the private quarters of the Lascelles family today.

          But what of the more ordinary or extraordinary objects? Throughout the house there are assorted everyday items like clothes horses and racks, night tables (bedside tables sometimes including room for a chamber pot), shaving stands and flower pots. There are those which would also be very familiar to the country house visitor like boot jacks and mahogany ‘toilet’ tables (dressing table). Mixed in with these are those more unusual items which are the gadgets of their day, or form earlier versions of what we take for granted in our own homes today like weighing scales or a bidet.

Possibly a late 18th century bidet

For Edwin’s brother Daniel Lascelles, a bidet was kept in his own apartments at Harewood. In each of the lodging rooms there was a boot jack, a night table or pot table, a washing stand, clothes horse, a pier glass and perhaps a sofa amongst other things.

A Gouty Chair c. 1800 (V&A Collection)

On the principal floor, and placed in a closet next to the dining room, there was a weighing machine. The presence of which conjures up all kinds of images of hypochondria and paranoia about weight. Yet the Merlin’s Gouty Chair in the coffee room below may serve to remind us of how rich eighteenth-century diets played havoc with the body. 

 

The significance of this document in discovering more about a newly built eighteenth-century country house should be examined further. What is discussed above only scratches the surface of social and decorative art histories associated with a country house. I have not even got close to the ‘below stairs’ section of the inventory with its 36 small stew pots, 65 small moulds, or 174 pewter plates! Within the constraints of copyright, I hope it may be possible to return to other aspects of this in later posts.

*********

 

Assorted 18th century household paraphernalia. A boot jack is in the centre and a weighing 'machine' is on the right (copyright Christies)

 [1] I acquired a printed copy of the Harewood inventory 1795 at a previous employment whilst helping to shift piles of old educational papers and tatty exhibition related stuff years ago. Apparently the inventory used to be a part of the Harewood House website learning and access pages but these seem to have disappeared. More curious is the actual location of the original document. The Harewood and Lascelles family papers were for many years held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) in Leeds. I made several fruitless searches on the National Archives and WYAS websites, and a Google search brought a footnote up from S. D. Smith’s Slavery, family and gentry capitalism in the British Atlantic (2006) which listed the document as ‘Inventory of Edwin, Lord Harewood, 27 October 1795 IB 11/3/85’ with no clue to its location. However, the National Archives lists the Harewood Papers as belonging to the Harewood House Trust which indicates the return of the papers to the house itself. With no real intention of appearing churlish, I find this a disappointing move for those interested in exploring more of Harewood House, and the Trust seems reluctant to reveal the contents of its archives without an appointment, phone call or email.

 

 

References:

Clive Edwards et al., British Furniture 1600-2000, Intelligent Layman. (2005)

Harewood, Yorkshire: A Guide (2000)

Mary Mauchline, Harewood House: One of the Treasure Houses of Britain (Revised 2nd edition, 1992)

Simon David Smith, Slavery, family, and gentry capitalism in the British Atlantic: the world of the Lascelles,1648-1834. (2006)

 

Links:

Harewood House website http://www.harewood.org/home (see also the Treasure Houses of Britain) and the restoration of the Harewood State Bed http://www.harewood.org/conservation-estate/conservation-projects/state-bed

Biographies of People and Place: The Harewood Estate 1698-1813, by Timur Guran Tatlioglu http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/1405/1/Microsoft_Word_-_Thesis_TGT_2010_v2_Vol_1.pdf

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Oakwell Hall, Birstall, West Yorkshire

Oakwell Hall
Oakwell Hall from above (Kirklees Metropolitan Council)

         It’s often really refreshing to peep into a country house that isn’t spectacularly gilded, hung with Chinese wallpaper, and set out with Louis XV furniture. Oakwell Hall is not a grand medieval palace or power house, but a house built for a member of the local gentry at the end of the sixteenth century. Its definition as a country house rests simply with its use as an established home for one family – the Batt family and their hopes of maintaining their status within the landscape. That the Batt family inhabited the hall for only one century provides this house with a great mix of history.

          Situated about 2 miles away from the concrete and glass ‘haven’ that is Birstall Retail Park and Leeds Ikea, Oakwell Hall is one of those ‘hidden gems’ which stares blankly back should you ever use such an expression. Set within Oakwell Country Park, the house is tucked away upon an otherwise commanding hillside behind thick trees and amongst remnants of its twentieth-century mining heritage. The park provides a welcome break or day out for families, and the eighteenth-century styled gardens are great for eager gardeners. The house itself stands boldly and is almost always quiet. Built in 1583 for John Batt, Oakwell came as the next step in the Batt family’s prominence. An entrepreneurial family, the Batts had made their fortune through several business interests in Halifax throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Oakwell Hall Great Parlour

The house is a mix of local Yorkshire building and fashionable gentry style and is medieval in its arrangement with a central hall rising through the upper storey. An arched passage leads to the main kitchen and the ‘New Parlour’ on one side of the hall to the south-east, with the Great Parlour and associated rooms to the north-west. John Batt’s initials appear on the front porch and much of the architectural arrangement and interior design throughout the house is thought to date from the late sixteenth century. Kirklees Metropolitan Council have set much of the house out as they think it may have appeared in the last decade of the seventeenth century which is curious since this was the era of the remaining Batt family member, another John Batt who died without issue. However, the council’s motives seem more in line with the interior decoration which includes painted oak panelling and plaster friezes dating from the 1630s onwards, and a desire to replicate many items of furniture from the seventeenth century based on an inventory of 1611 and

The Batt Coat of Arms

accounts dating to 1609-12. This time scale also allows inclusion of the Batts’ involvement in the English Civil War and later settlement in the American Colonies. Indeed, many overseas visitors to Oakwell Hall today have connections to the seventeenth-century Batts of Virginia.

          In the eighteenth century, Oakwell Hall passed through the hands of several tenants, but was eventually bought by lawyer Benjamin Fearnley. His son Fairfax Fearnley inherited his father’s debt as well as creating much of his own, but he was quite an eccentric character with good connections amongst the Yorkshire elite, including the Winns at Nostell Priory. Fearnley eventually sold the house in 1789 to help settle some of his debts. From that period, the house and remains of the estate passed to absentee landlords and private families until it became a boarding school. Its most famous visitor, Charlotte Bronte came to Oakwell whilst staying with close friends who had links to the hall when it was run as a girls’ school. Oakwell would later appear in Bronte’s novel Shirley as ‘Fieldhead’ – the home of the novel’s heroine,
Tenantless by the proprietor it had been for ten years, but it was no ruin … If Fieldhead had few other merits as a building, it might at least be termed picturesque; its irregular architecture, and the grey and mossy colouring communicated by time, gave it a just claim to this epithet. The old latticed windows, the stone porch, the walls, the roof, the chimney stacks were rich in crayon touches and sepia lights and shades.
Charlotte Bronte, Shirley, Vol. 1 (1849)  p. 276
          The hall would be used as the location for Fieldhead in a silent adaptation of Shirley in 1921 by the Ideal Film Company. The house as a museum today is welcoming and somehow sturdy and heavy as you approach the porch. In typical Yorkshire fashion, it has drizzled everyday I’ve been on a visit, but when the sun does poke through the open spaces seem to expand and the house rests calmly on its large hillside site looking out towards the parkland. The modern-day Yorkshire landscape is dotted with industry and transport links – especially the M62 in this case. So should you ever pass Birstall Retail Park travelling west, remember Oakwell Hall is not far away, you may not be able to see it, but its countless visitors can see you!
Links:
Wikipedia entry on Oakwell Hall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakwell_Hall
References:
Catherine Hall and Jane Whittaker, Oakwell Hall: A Guide. (1999)
Charlotte Bronte, Shirley: A Tale. (1849)

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Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited: 2011 (part 2)

         

Charles Watson-Wentworth as the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1766-8

           The inhabitants of Wentworth Woodhouse and their relationship with the house is not unlike those of the previous case studies examined by Cruickshank. This is due greatly to the twentieth-century inhabitants experiencing problems of descent. However, punctuated with the usual financial fluctuations and difficulties in maintaining such a vast sprawl of building, Wentworth Woodhouse has survived almost intact. Upon the 1st Marquess’s death in 1750, the estate and title passed to Charles Watson-Wentworth, his fifth son and eighth child in a family of ten (the two older sons having died young). A man of a slight nervous disposition, Charles suffered from regular health problems and often sought advice from friends and his resident doctor. His wife Mary would send him supportive letters whilst he was away in London and also helped him with much of his administration, to which he called her his ‘Minerva at my side’. On Charles’s death in 1782 without male issue, his widow moved out to accommodate his nephew the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam and family.

          The 8thEarl died prematurely in a flying accident in 1948 without male issue and although the

The 8th Earl Fitzwilliam (taken from http://www.thepeerage.com)

house passed separately to the heirs of later Earls, the contents were dispersed and the house became two separate living quarters. Parts of the west front accommodated the remaining family members until the death of the 10th Earl in 1979, whilst the east front experienced a mix of inhabitants. Most of that part of the house was let to the West Riding County Council in 1950 for use as a teaching-training college but by the 1970s with local government reorganisation the lease was assigned to Rotherham Metropolitan District Council which then became part of Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University). Eventually, with incredible running costs to meet, the Polytechnic were forced to surrender the lease in 1986. The daughter of the 10th Earl placed the house and 30 acres on the market in 1988, and a year later it was bought by Wensley Haydon-Baillie, a businessman who struggled to maintain the place, and it was repossessed. At some point plans to convert Wentworth Woodhouse into a hotel were granted but not implemented.

          When Clifford Newbold bought the house for a mere £1.5million in 1999, the local community were especially intrigued to discover information on its new owner. By 2006 rumours had spread that the house was lived in by some mysterious solitary figure, who would sit at one window every evening and whose quarters would be lit by a single light. When The Sunday Times Magazine published an article on Catherine Bailey’s Black Diamonds in February 2007 residents of a nearby village were ready to comment on the reclusive nature of Wentworth Woodhouse’s inhabitant. For many it was pure curiosity, but for others the house represented agricultural and industrial communities which were once bound together through economic necessity. The owners of Wentworth Woodhouse provided employment on a large scale, both within and without its walls. Local village residents were therefore eager to know what impact the latest owner would have on their lives and cultural landscape. One resident said she had never seen him, adding that ‘no-one I know ever has’. This is about to change when Clifford Newbold shall appear on BBC2 in the company of Dan Cruickshank.

          Cruickshank’s quest to uncover ‘our nation’s hidden history’ is set to be a challenge with his exploration of Wentworth Woodhouse. In revealing this country house, Cruickshank will have several tasks to complete. The first is undoubtedly aspects of the construction of the house as two almost separate buildings. Dedication to the topic of twentieth-century Wentworth Woodhouse should be shown, especially in terms of its socio-economic status as the home of mine owners and their relationship with the post-war Labour government. A third point (though not really a final point) should be to ‘out’ the current owner Clifford Newbold and allow him to demonstrate his plans of restoration and refurbishment. It will be interesting to see who else Dan Cruickshank calls on to help illustrate Wentworth Woodhouse’s past, as it is essential that the history of this house is given the limelight. The Country House Revealed at Wentworth Woodhouse will most certainly be multi-layered.

References:

Elaine Chalus, ‘Elite Women, Social Politics, and the Political World of Late Eighteenth-Century England, The Historical Journal 43, 3(2000), pp.669-697

Tim Rayment, ‘The Mansion of Mystery and Malice’, Sunday Times Magazine, (11 February 2007), pp.16-25

Country Life articles:

Marcus Binney, ‘Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited I’, (March 17 1983), pp.624-627

Marcus Binney, ‘Wentworth Woodhouse Revisited II’, (March 24, 1983), pp.708-711

John Martin Robinson, ‘Realise the Worth of Wentworth Woodhouse’, (21 January 1999), pp.58-61

Links:        

Marquess of Rockingham from Wikipedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquess_of_Rockingham

The Earls Fitzwilliam from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Fitzwilliam, particularly the 4th Earl, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Fitzwilliam,_4th_Earl_Fitzwilliam

Regional newspaper, The Star on the current inhabitants of Wentworth Woodhouse, 21 May 2011, http://tiny.cc/v21wa

WentworthVillage local history and community pages, http://www.wentworthvillage.net/history/wentworth-woodhouse

Marjorie Bloy’s website dedicated to Charles Watson-Wentworth, http://www.historyhome.co.uk/pms/rocky.htm

The Wentworth Follies, http://www.inkamera.ukgo.com/wfolly/4rm0-0.htm (These are also discussed by Marcus Binney for Country Life, 24 January 1991)

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