Saturday, 18 June 2016

(219) Astley of Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval, baronets and Barons Hastings

Astley, Barons Hastings
The Astleys of Melton Constable trace their lineage back to Sir Thomas de Astley of Astley (Warks), who was killed at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. From his first marriage descended the medieval Barons Astley, and a cadet branch which settled at Patshull Hall (Staffs) and which will be the subject of a future post on this blog. By his second marriage to Editha, daughter of Peter Constable of Melton Constable (Norfk), he acquired the Melton Constable estate, and this, together with his property at Hillmorton (Warks) was settled on Ralph Astley, the elder son of his marriage to Editha.

The Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates descended to Thomas Astley (1469-1543), with whom the genealogy below begins. He married three times, with all his wives being most unhelpfully called Anne; the second one, Anne alias Ellen Wood of East Barsham, was the sister of Elizabeth Wood, who married Sir James Boleyn of Blickling Hall (Norfk), the uncle of Henry VIII's second queen, Anne Boleyn. Although Anne Wood died long before a young Anne Boleyn first caught the king's roving eye, the Astleys seem to have used their connection with the Boleyns to gain places at court for both John Astley (c.1507-96) and his elder half-brother Thomas Astley (fl. 1558); both came to have positions of considerable trust and responsibility, and since they were clearly identified with the Protestant reforms of Henry VIII and Edward VI, found it prudent to withdraw to the Continent when the Catholic Queen Mary came to the throne in 1553. Thomas Astley became a citizen of Frankfurt in 1558, and it is not clear that he ever returned to England (though it is likely that he did), but John Astley, who was married to Princess Elizabeth's governess and close friend, Kat Astley alias Ashley, was back in England by 1555. Although his wife was briefly imprisoned in 1556, when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 they were both at once appointed to important positions at court. John's appointment as Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber ended with his wife's death in 1566 and thereafter he spent an increasing amount of time on his estates in Kent, but he held several other responsible and lucrative offices which show that he retained the sovereign's confidence into old age. John and Kat Ashley had no children, but in October 1565 John married again, this time to an illegitimate daughter of Lord Thomas Grey. Their only surviving son, Sir John Ashley (c.1569-1640), kt., was brought up partly at Court in the later years of Elizabeth's reign and continued in favour under King James I, who appointed him to the important post of Master of the Revels in 1623, although he at once leased the office to Sir Henry Herbert. Sir John died without surviving issue and left his estates in Kent to his kinsman, Sir Jacob Astley (1579-1653), one of the most experienced soldiers in the King's service, who played an important role in the early years of the Civil War in welding the inexperienced Royalist troops into an effective military force. For his services in the field and as a member of the King's war council, he was created Baron Astley of Reading (of which town he was briefly Governor) in 1644. The title and Kentish estates descended to his son and grandson, but on the death of the 3rd Baron in 1689 the title died out and the estates passed under entail to the Astleys of Melton Constable.

The Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates passed by descent from Thomas Astley (1469-1543) to his eldest son by his first wife, John Astley (c.1503-58), and to John's son, Isaac Astley (c.1540-98). These 16th-century generations seem to have spelled their name Astley or Ashley indifferently, and it is only in the later 17th century that it is standardised as Astley, perhaps to distinguish them from the Ashleys of Wimborne St. Giles. Isaac Astley produced at least 17 children over 27 years by his long-suffering wife Mary Waldegrave, but many of them died young. Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading, was the second surviving son. But the heir to the Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates was the eldest son, Thomas Astley (1567-1617). He had three surviving sons, and his estates passed in turn to Sir Francis Astley (1595-1638), kt. and Sir Isaac Astley (1600-59), 1st bt., who both died unmarried. The third brother, Sir Edward Astley (1604/5-54), kt., was the only one to produce children, and his son, Sir Jacob Astley (1640-1729), 1st bt., united the family estates, inheriting Melton Constable and Hillmorton from Sir Isaac in 1659 and the Maidstone (Kent) estate of the 3rd Baron Astley of Reading in 1689. although he later sold the Kent estate in 1720. Sir Jacob was also the man who built the present Melton Constable Hall from 1664 onwards, and who secured the family's social status by acquiring a baronetcy and becoming one of the MPs for Norfolk.

After the 1st baronet's death at the age of nearly 90 he was succeeded by his only surviving son, Sir Philip Astley (1667-1739), 2nd bt., and then by the latter's son, Sir Jacob Astley (1692-1760), 3rd bt. Sir Jacob, who was a keen musician, married three times and by his first marriage, to Lucy Le Strange of Hunstanton, laid the foundations for the revival of the barony of Hastings in favour of his descendants in the 19th century. He was succeeded by Sir Edward Astley (1729-1802), 4th bt., who employed Capability Brown to landscape the grounds of Melton Constable Hall in the 1760s. Like his great-grandfather, Sir Edward was MP for Norfolk for an extended period, coming in after a ruinously expensive contested election in 1768. The combination of landscaping works and election expenses obliged Sir Edward to sell what was left of the Hillmorton estate in Warwickshire, and the estate he left to his son, Sir Jacob Henry Astley (1756-1817), 5th bt., was thus largely confined to Norfolk. Father and son may not have been on the best of terms, but the claims during a contested election in 1802 that the 5th baronet's 'misconduct and unkindness' had caused his father's death earlier that year were assuredly overstated. In 1814, Sir Jacob Henry Astley inherited the Seaton Delaval estate in Northumberland when the male line of the Delavals, his mother's family, died out, and his descendants have held property in Norfolk and Northumberland ever since.

In 1817 the estates passed to Sir Jacob Astley (1797-1859), 6th bt., a Regency figure who preserved the tastes and temper of his youth into old age. When Seaton Delaval was badly damaged by fire in 1822 he did not restore it, perhaps because he had no immediate need of a second large country house on his remote northern estate. In 1840-41 a series of decisions by the House of Lords led to the revival of the barony of Hastings in his favour. The title had not been used since the death of the 5th Baron in 1389; Parliament determined the rightful succession down to the death of John Hastings, de jure 15th Baron, in 1542, and showed that after that the title had fallen into abeyance between his sisters and co-heiresses. In 1841 there were still three co-heirs to the title, so Astley had no automatic right to it. Indeed, he was the junior co-heir, representing only one quarter of the barony; there were two more senior claimants: Henry L'Estrange Styleman, who represented another quarter of the barony, and Frances Berney, wife of the Rev. Richard Eaton (later Browne), who represented the senior moiety of the barony. Termination of the abeyance in favour of a co-heir is at the discretion of the Crown, and it would appear that Astley's claim was preferred because in the late 1830s he had anyway been pressing the administration for a peerage and it was a convenient way of satisfying him. With the termination of the abeyance, Sir Jacob became 16th Baron Hastings and took his seat in the House of Lords.

In 1859, the 16th Baron was succeeded by his elder son, a foxhunting soldier, who put a roof back on the main block of Seaton Delaval but proceeded no further with a planned restoration. He died without issue in 1871, and the title and estates passed to his brother, the Rev. Delaval Loftus Astley, rector of East Barsham (Norfolk), who died the following year. His eldest son, Sir Bernard Edward Delaval Astley, 19th Baron Hastings, died of jungle fever in India in 1875 while on a shooting holiday, at the age of 20. So the title and estates passed unexpectedly to Maj. Sir George Manners Astley (1857-1904), 20th Baron Hastings, a keen sportsman who was for three years Chief Steward of the Jockey Club. He died comparatively young and the title and estates passed to his eldest son, Sir Albert Edward Delaval Astley (1882-1956), 21st Baron Hastings. The 21st Baron comes across as an authoritarian establishment figure who played his part in county society in Norfolk very conscientiously, but perhaps did not enjoy the easiest relationship with his children. In 1948, faced with the post-war social and economic outlook, he sold Melton Constable, the seat of his family since the 13th century, although he retained other property in Norfolk, and handed over Seaton Delaval to his son and heir, Edward. Sir Edward Delaval Astley (1912-2007), 22nd Baron Hastings, spent over fifty years working to save and restore Seaton Delaval House, and made it his main home in latter years. Following his death, the current Lord Hastings sold Seaton Delaval and some of the contents and lands to the National Trust; other contents remain on loan. The family continues to farm land in Norfolk and Northumberland but now that the splendours of Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval have departed, their base is a modest but comfortable village house at Barney near Fakenham in Norfolk.


Melton Constable Hall, Norfolk


The manor of Melton Constable belonged to the Astleys from 1236 to 1948, and the Carolean house is widely regarded as one of the most perfect and important of its date in the country. It is therefore both tragic and scandalous that it has been derelict and decaying for half a century. 
Melton Constable Hall: the south and east fronts in 1976. Image: © Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.

There was a courtyard house here in the 16th and 17th centuries which was said, in a parliamentary private bill that provided for a new settlement of the estates in 1664, to be 'now wholly decayed and fallen down'. In the bill, Sir Jacob Astley, 1st bt. declared it was his intention to rebuild it 'which will cost him above fower thousand pounds' (this no doubt proved a severe underestimate). The main body of the old house was in fact pulled down in 1664, although one wing of it was retained for use as a detached service block to its replacement. The present house was presumably begun shortly afterwards, but the precise dates of construction are uncertain. There are no architectural drawings or accounts for the house, but one key piece of evidence we do have is the architectural modela rare and splendid thing which was preserved because it was used later as a doll's house, and which is now in Gressenhall Museum. The model shows a slightly different design to the executed building, and arguably a slightly more sophisticated one. Internal fitting up of the new house continued - perhaps after a break - into the late 1680s, and it is possible that some of the divergence between the model and the building as first recorded in 1708 is due to changes made at that time.

Roger North, in his essay 'Of building', which is believed to have been written about 1698, says that Sir Jacob Astley built the house with 'no surveyor but a master bricklayer', but it is so much at the height of fashion for its date that even if Astley himself was a competent and well-informed gentleman amateur who was responsible for overseeing the design, he probably had advice from one or more of the leading gentleman architects of the time, such as Sir Roger Pratt (who had an estate at Ryston in Norfolk where he began building in 1664) or Hugh May. The house as originally built had a rooftop balustrade and cupola (removed in the late 18th century) which would have brought the design quite close to that of Horseheath Hall (Cambs), built by Pratt in 1663-70 for Lord Alington. The identity of the 'master bricklayer' who was responsible for construction is also obscure, but Sir Thomas Fitch (1637-88) has been suggested, although nothing is known of his career before the Great Fire of London in 1666 and his younger brother, John Fitch (1640-1706), eventually gained more country house experience.


Melton Constable Hall: drawing of the west front c.1725 by Edmund Prideaux



Some of the key differences between the model and the executed building concern the design of the west front. The model shows a loggia in the centre of the west front and a continuous hipped roof on this side of the building. As built, the loggia was absent and a rather clumsy recessed lead flat was introduced into the middle of the roof on this side to allow the creation of a large window to light the central staircase hall. This arrangement was criticised by Roger North, but is visible in a drawing of the west front by Edmund Prideaux of c.1725 and indeed survives today.


Melton Constable Hall: north and west fronts in c.2010. The loggia on the west front is an addition of 1757.

Melton Constable is a large house, of nine bays by seven, and consists of two main storeys of brick above a high ashlar-faced basement, with a hipped roof containing pedimented dormers. The whole house is beautifully proportioned. Decoration is confined to the stone quoins that define the angles and the pedimented three-bay centres on the long sides, the doorcases, and (the one less successful note) the miniature pediments over the second and eighth windows on the ground floor (second and sixth on the seven-bay west front). The entrance was originally on the south side, where an 18th century staircase rises in two arms with wrought-iron handrails to a doorcase with fluted Ionic columns and an open pediment. It was moved to the north side for the 6th baronet in about 1840, and in 1850 he built an intrusive and inappropriate porte-cochere in front of it, happily removed a century later. The seven-bay west side has additionally a three-bay balustraded loggia with four attenuated Ionic columns in the centre, which was added in 1757.


Melton Constable Hall, with the massive Victorian porte-cochere in place. 

The house was designed as a triple pile, an arrangement pioneered at May's Eltham Lodge. Roger North described the original layout, with entrance into the lower end of a hall which occupied the whole of the south-east corner of the ground floor, while to the west was an 'eating room, and a pantry' with a gallery over it for musicians entertaining the company in the hall. The middle range of the house was taken up by the chapel to the east and the main staircase to the west, with the service stairs backing onto the main staircase and separated from them only by a balustrade. North criticises the fact that the main staircase, being in the centre of the house, had to receive light from windows immediately under the cornice and opening onto the roof, 'a constrained thing that doth not look easy nor proper'. The north range of the house consisted of a central withdrawing room serving a great parlour in the north-west corner and a little parlour to the north-east. 


Melton Constable Hall: ground plan of the architectural model.
Image: © Historic England BB81/2110
We do not have a plan of the house as first executed, but the arrangement North describes deviates in some respects from layout shown in the model, which has a large room at the western end of the central pile where the backstairs were eventually placed, and apparently had the great parlour in the north-east corner rather than on the north-west. The model shows an unexpectedly old-fashioned entry into a screens passage across the lower end of the hall, whereas North implies that the screen was not in fact built, and that the hall - although traditionally placed - was entered directly.

Melton Constable Hall: rough ground plan as existing. Not to scale.
Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.

Only a few rooms have kept their 17th century decoration. The staircase is the chief survivor. It has two boldly twisted balusters to each tread, and carved tread-ends and must date from the 1680s at the earliest. The eating room in the south-west corner (now the Red Drawing Room) has a spectacular plaster ceiling dated 1687, very probably by the same craftsman who worked at Felbrigg Hall (Norfolk) in that year and at Hintlesham Hall (Suffolk) in c.1690 and which is attributed to Edward Goudge. The ceiling at Melton contains game-birds and flowers and fruit in frames and panels, all most daringly modelled and undercut. The same brilliant craftsmanship is found on the ceiling of the north-east corner room on the first floor, the staircase ceiling, and the underside of the upper landing.


Melton Constable Hall: staircase in 1909. Image: Historic England/Batsford
Melton Constable Hall: Red Drawing Room in 1909. Image: Historic England/Batsford.

The rest of the interiors date largely from a mid 18th century refitting and from alterations made when the entrance was moved to the north front c.1840. The chapel was converted into a Saloon in the mid 18th century and opened up to the staircase through a screen of columns; the saloon has a fine fireplace with putto caryatids. The service stairs were moved to the north-east corner, and the old back stairs at the west end of the middle pile were turned into a drawing room, when the loggia was added to the west front in 1757.  


Melton Constable Hall: a musical party in 1734 by John Theodore Heins. This conversation piece shows an interior with a giant order and may capture the original decoration of the hall or chapel.






Melton Constable Hall: the saloon as redecorated in the 18th century, looking through to the staircase, 1909.
Image: Historic England/Batsford.

When the entrance was moved to the north front, the withdrawing room there became an entrance hall and the original hall in the south range was made into the East Drawing Room, which has plasterwork of c.1840.


Melton Constable Hall: bird's eye view of the landscape by Knyff and Kip, 1708.


Melton Constable Hall: a mid 18th century view of the landscape setting after Capability Brown had removed the formal gardens and brought sweeping lawns up to the house. Image: Government Art Collection. Some rights reserved.
The park was landscaped by Capability Brown in 1764-69, and the immediate setting of the house was altered again when the terraces around the house were created by the 6th baronet as part of his alterations to the approach to the house. In the grounds to the west of the house is the former Bath House. This is shown in the Knyff drawing of 1708 as having a three-storey tower, but it was extended and Gothicised in the 1760s, possibly by Capability Brown, and it was given two-storey wings in the early 19th century. Inside, the former bath room has a bolection-moulded doorway and the remains of a big fireplace of c.1700. 


Melton Constable Hall: the Bath House in the early 20th century.

Further from the house, a tower windmill built by the 1st bt. in 1721 at Briningham, was redeveloped in the 1780s by the 4th bt. as a folly tower. It was restored in 1980 as a private residence.


Melton Constable Hall: this aerial view shows the substantial service buildings added to the house in 1810, 1887 and 1926.

There was a major investment in the service buildings of the house by the 5th bt. in about 1810. He built the Church Lodge and Swanton Lodge, constructed a link building (altered in 1887), to connect the house to the Elizabethan service range, and thoroughly remodelled the latter. To the south of the stable yard, and further south, as an extension of the south front, are additions of 1920-26.

The Astley family sold Melton Constable to the Duke of Westminster in 1948. He sold it to a local farmer in 1959 and it has been unoccupied since, apart from one wing which has been restored as flats. The current owner has been in possession since 1986 but his expressed good intentions about restoration have largely been frustrated by financial problems. The roof was renewed in the 1980s and some other work has been done on an ad hoc basis, but the overall condition has continued to deteriorate and the house now badly needs new owners with the resources to undertake a major restoration campaign. The house is so important that one wonders if Historic England could apply the same approach here as at Apethorpe, acquiring the house, undertaking the essential restoration, and selling it on to a private buyer subject to covenants about public access.

Descent: Thomas Astley (1469-1543); to son, John Astley (c.1503-58); to son, Isaac Astley (c.1540-98); to son, Thomas Astley (1567-1617); to son, Sir Isaac Astley (1600-59), 1st bt.; to nephew, Sir Jacob Astley (1640-1729), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Philip Astley (1667-1739), 2nd bt.; to son, Sir Jacob Astley (1692-1760), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir Edward Astley (1729-1802), 4th bt.; to son, Sir Jacob Henry Astley (1756-1817), 5th bt.; to son, Sir Jacob Astley (1797-1859), 6th bt. and 16th Baron Hastings; to son, Sir Jacob Henry Delaval Astley (1822-71), 17th Baron Hastings; to brother, Sir Delaval Loftus Astley (1825-72), 18th Baron Hastings; to son, Sir Bernard Edward Delaval Astley (1855-75), 19th Baron Hastings; to brother, Sir George Manners Astley (1857-1904), 20th Baron Hastings; to son, Sir Albert Edward Delaval Astley (1882-1956), 21st Baron Hastings; who sold 1948 to Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor (1879-1953), 2nd Duke of Westminster, who let it to Hon. A.M. Baillie; to half-cousin, William Grosvenor (1894-1963), 3rd Duke of Westminster, who sold 1959 to Geoffrey Harrold; sold 1986 to Roger Gawn.



Seaton Delaval Hall, Northumberland


Seaton Delaval is famous as one of the most striking and characteristic buildings of the great Baroque architect, Sir John Vanbrugh. But although this is in general justified, since he did design the dominant central block of the house, the actual story of the building is a great deal more complex than it suggests.


Seaton Delaval Hall: north front. The central block was built to Sir John Vanbrugh's design, c.1721-29; the wings to an amended version of his scheme in the late 1720s and 1730s. Image: Allan J. White. Some rights reserved.

The earliest reference to a dwelling on this site is in 1415, when Sir William Winchester held the tower of Seton de la Vale. In 1549 the tower had a beacon basket on top for sending fire signals as part of a beacon chain. A manor house was built onto the tower in Tudor times, with a hall, great chamber and various lodgings, and at some point before 1628 this was extended by the addition of wings, one of which contained a long gallery, while the old tower was modernised by the addition of windows and chimneys, and given battlements. However by the late 17th century the Delavals had moved to a thatched house called Seaton Lodge (demolished in the early 20th century) near Seaton Sluice, and by the time Admiral George Delaval bought the estate in 1719 the old manor house was in decay. As soon as he began the purchase negotiations in 1717 he contacted Sir John Vanbrugh about remodelling the house, but Vanbrugh quickly persuaded him to demolish and rebuild it.


Seaton Delaval Hall: design for central block as published in Vitruvius Britannicus, 1725.
Seaton Delaval Hall: Vanbrugh's proposed plan for the house, as published in Vitruvius Britannicus, 1725. The central block was largely built to this scheme, but the design of the wings was greatly altered later.

Work had begun by October 1720, when a group of masons, labourers, joiners and carters was paid £239. What was going forward at this time was probably the demolition of the old house, as Vanbrugh's first documented visit to the castle did not take place until December. By March 1721 William Etty of York was on site as clerk of works and large quantities of stone were being quarried and brought to the site. In August 1721 Vanbrugh wrote, following a further visit to the site, that 'the Admiral is very Gallant in his operations, not being dispos'd to starve the Design at all. So that he is like to have, a very fine Dwelling'. The house that Vanbrugh planned in response to this generous brief consisted of a roughly square but dramatically vertical main block fronting a cour d'honneur that is 180 ft. deep but only 152 ft. wide. On either side of this forecourt are service blocks fronted by arcades than run down to small square pavilions, originally intended to be domed. 


Seaton Delaval Hall: north front, 2007. Image: Steve Watson/Nev1. Some rights reserved.

The house itself was comparatively small - only 75 feet square - but it was treated in an immensely grand way, both inside and out. The elevations display Vanbrugh's characteristic ability to suggest a castle air while using only classical forms; the four angles of the block have clasping corner turrets, and are principally responsible for suggesting a castle. The Admiral's calling and the antiquity of his family no doubt made a martial Gothic mood seem especially appropriate. Inside, the overwhelming massiveness of the exterior continued, an effect enhanced today by the fact that since the mid 19th century the house has been a roofed shell. 


Seaton Delaval Hall: interior of hall, looking south. The room was two stories high until the fire of 1822 removed the floor above. 
Image: ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The front door brought the visitor into one end of a narrow stone-faced two-storey hall with heavy blank arcading on the ground floor and arched niches between heavy pillars on the first floor. The niches still have the statues (installed in the 1770s) which were damaged in the fire of 1822, and downstairs the fireplace still has the remains of termini caryatids. At either side of the house are staircase towers, linked by corridors which on the ground and first floors pass across the inner end of the hall. The stair towers contain wonderfully elegant cantilevered stone staircases, one of which was restored in 1962, although the other preserves the wrought iron balustrades twisted and bent out of shape by the 1822 fire. 


Seaton Delaval Hall: staircase restored in 1962
Image: Nicholas Kingsley. 
Some rights reserved.
Seaton Delaval Hall: detail of unrestored staircase, showing fire
damage from 1822. Image: Nicholas Kingsley.
Some rights reserved.



























The south side of the house was filled by a single massive saloon, divided into three parts by pairs of columns, and with stucco ceilings recorded as being by 'Vercelli' (probably a mishearing of Vassalli, who also worked at Castle Howard).

Unfortunately, in 1723, the Admiral died unexpectedly, following a fall from his horse, and the estate passed to his nephew, Capt. Francis Blake Delaval RN, who was alarmed by the scale of operations, and was 'resolved to do no more than is absolutely necessary to preserve what has already been done'; in the event, this apparently involved roofing the completed fabric. The following year, Delaval married an heiress, and work was able to resume. A plan and elevations of the intended house which were published in Vitruvius Britannicus in 1725 were probably drawn a few years earlier, during the Admiral's lifetime, and they no doubt represent the original scheme. But apart from the central block, roofed by 1724. the building as it exists today differs considerably from the published scheme. This is probably because Vanbrugh died in 1726 and work continued under the auspices of another architect (most likely the clerk of works, William Etty), but it could also be because Capt. Delaval saw no reason to stick to his uncle's plans where construction had not already taken place.


Seaton Delaval Hall: painting of  north front by Arthur Pond, 1745. Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond



Seaton Delaval Hall: painting of south front by Arthur Pond, 1745. Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
A pair of pictures by Arthur Pond, dated 1745, probably show the intended form of the revised house. The forecourt wings are shown very much as they exist today except for the domes on the corner pavilions, which were either omitted or removed later. But the picture of the south front also shows large two-storey wings either side of Vanbrugh's central block, and payments in the accounts for 1736 and 1737 show that at least the shell of the south-east wing at least was built at this time. 

In 1752 a fire that started in the kitchen wing on the west side of the forecourt did extensive damage to the house, and in the same year Capt. Delaval died and was succeeded by notoriously profligate son, Sir Francis Delaval. Since by 1755 Sir Francis was acutely financially embarrassed, it is almost certain that work on the house was suspended for many years, and an account of a visit by John Wallis published in 1769 talks of the house as incomplete.


Seaton Delaval Hall: south front by William Bell, 1775. Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond.


Sir Francis died in 1775 leaving as heir his younger brother, Sir John Hussey Delaval (1728-1808), who had in practice been running the family estates for many years. It would appear that building work resumed under Sir John's administration in about 1771, as an account covering ten years compiled in 1781 records the construction of a new wing at a cost of £3,175. A painting of 1775 shows both wings of the south front completed, but a further drawing of the south front in 1809 tells a very different story. It shows that while the south-east wing had then been raised to a third storey, only the basement and unfinished end pavilion of the south-west wing then existed. 


Seaton Delaval Hall: watercolour of south front in 1809 by P. Abbott. Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond.

This drawing impresses much more as an accurate topographical record than the earlier easel paintings, which since they were designed for display for posterity in the house are much more likely to show what was intended than what had actually been built. So it would seem that the work of the 1770s consisted of raising and fitting up the south-east wing. Further evidence is provided by the first proper description of the house, published by William Hutchinson in 1778, which describes the splendid series of new reception rooms created in the south-east wing, and by a survey plan of 1817 which shows the east wing contained a four-bay drawing room, a two-bay breakfast room, and then in the pavilion a dining room known as the Fruit Room because it was 'ornamented with festoons of fruits and flowers, formed of a most durable composition, and so admirably painted as perfectly to resemble nature'. Behind these apartments there were also a study and library. Alongside his work on the house, Sir John also built a mausoleum at Seaton Delaval to the memory of his son, who died aged 19 in 1776. The building was clearly intended to echo the character of the Vanbrugh house nearby; it was intact in the 1920s, but by the 1990s only the shell remained.


Seaton Delaval Hall: mausoleum, photographed c.1906.

In 1814-17 the Newcastle architect John Dobson was brought in to restore the kitchen wing on the west side of the courtyard, which had been damaged by the fire in 1752. The fact that this had not been done earlier suggests that the south-east wing, as adapted in the 1770s, provided alternative kitchen and service accommodation - perhaps in the basement. 

In 1822 a second disastrous fire largely gutted the house, leaving Vanbrugh's central block a roofless shell and apparently destroying the more recent south-east wing. The house stood thus until 1860, when Lord Hastings evidently had thoughts of restoring it for his occasional use. The ageing John Dobson was brought back to Seaton Delaval, put a new roof on the central block, and drew up plans for renewing the interior; but it was decided instead to adapt the west side of the forecourt (the former kitchen wing) for family use. The surviving walls of the south-east and south-west wings were probably tidied away at the same time.


Seaton Delaval Hall: the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map, based on an 1858 survey, shows the hall as roofless and also marks the ruins of the south-east wing. The rectangular haha wall with circular bastions at the angles which enclosed Vanbrugh's house is also very clear in this plan.

The house continued to serve successive Lords Hastings as an occasional summer residence until the 1920s, when it was let. After Second World War requisitioning as a prisoner of war camp, which left the house a fairly forlorn wreck, the Hon. Edward Astley (later 22nd Baron Hastings) took over the estate in 1946 and the house was opened to the public from 1948. New gardens were laid out in the 1950s, and in the 1980s, a part of the west wing which had been let to Historic Banquets Ltd. was taken back in hand and beautifully redecorated and refurnished, using some of the historic contents of Melton Constable. This part of the house became Lord Hastings' main home in 1990. Following his death in 2007, the house was sold to The National Trust in 2009 with the help of a generously supported public appeal.


Descent: Admiral George Delaval (1668-1723); to nephew, Capt. Francis Delaval (1692-1752); to son, Sir Francis Blake Delaval (1727-71); to brother, Sir John Hussey Delaval (1728-1808), bt., 1st Baron Delaval; to brother, Edward Delaval (1729-1814); to nephew, Sir Jacob Henry Astley (1756-1817), 5th bt.; to son, Sir Jacob Astley (1797-1859), 6th bt. and later 16th Baron Hastings; to son, Sir Jacob Henry Delaval Astley (1822-71), 17th Baron Hastings; to brother, Rev. Sir Delaval Loftus Astley (1825-72), 18th Baron Hastings; to son, Sir Bernard Edward Delaval Astley (1855-75), 19th Baron Hastings; to brother, Maj. Sir George Manners Astley (1857-1904), 20th Baron Hastings; to son, Sir Albert Edward Delaval Astley (1882-1956), 21st Baron Hastings; to son, Sir Edward Delaval Astley (1912-2007), 22nd Baron Hastings; to son, Sir Delaval Thomas Harold Astley (b. 1960), 23rd Baron Hastings, who sold 2009 to the National Trust.



Maidstone Palace, Kent


Maidstone Palace from the river, with the parish church beyond. Image: Paul D.

The house is located on the east bank of the River Medway close to its meeting with the River Len. A house on the site was given to Archbishop Langton of Canterbury by the Rev. William de Cornhill in 1207 to be used as a resting-place for archbishops travelling between London and Canterbury; it forms part of a chain of such houses at Charing, Otford and Croydon. The original house was demolished by Archbishop Ufford, who ordered the building of a replacement in 1348, and work continued under Archbishop Islip between 1349 and 1366, partly with materials from a palace at Wrotham. At the end of the 14th century, Archbishop Courtenay founded the neighbouring College and Church of All Saints. The palace was further enlarged and improved by Archbishop Morton in 1486, but it and the College were given to Henry VIII by Archbishop Cranmer in 1537 in exchange for property elsewhere. 

Maidstone Palace: entrance front. Image: The Tudor Roses.

In the late 16th century, Sir John Astley extended the palace, building much of the existing structure, including the E-shaped stone centre of the entrance front. This has a main entrance through a central projecting porch, and projecting bays at either end, above which are set large dormers in the tiled roof: taken together bays and dormers give a suggestion of towers. The projecting bays have flights of steps up to first-floor doorways on their inner sides. The right porch is a dummy and contains instead a staircase leading up to small rooms on the north side of the house. Either side of this stone centre are timber-framed wings, which may be partly older, although that on the north was much rebuilt in 1909.  The south-west façade onto the river is all of stone, and has mullioned windows in a variety of sizes, disposed around a large mullioned and transomed oriel window which is elegantly corbelled out from the wall. This, however, must be of 1909 too, as its does not appear on early photographs of the house, where there are two sash windows in this position.

Maidstone Place: a view of the river side c.1900.

Close to the palace on the south is the so-called dungeon, a 14th century stone building with small windows and an early Norman undercroft. To the north-east of the palace, adjacent to Mill Street and the River Len is a 13th and 14th century two-storey building constructed of roughly-coursed rubble with timber framing on the east end; it is known as the gatehouse but has no gate arch and was a part of the palace's outer court. The finest survival from the medieval period is the 15th century two-storey stable block east of the church, probably built for Archbishop Morton in the late 15th century, which has stone walls and a fine crown-post roof. The whole palace complex is surrounded by walls.

Descent: held by Archbishops of Canterbury until Archbishop Cranmer exchanged it with King Henry VIII for lands elsewhere; granted to Sir Thomas Wyatt but forfeited to Crown in 1554 after his son's rebellion against Queen Mary; granted 1581 to John Astley (c.1507-96); to son, Sir John Astley (c.1569-1640); to kinsman, Sir Jacob Astley (1579-1653), 1st Baron Astley of Reading; to son, Sir Isaac Astley (d. 1662), 2nd Baron Astley of Reading; to son, Jacob Astley (1651-89), 3rd Baron Astley of Reading; to kinsman, Sir Jacob Astley (1640-1729), 1st bt. of Melton Constable; sold 1720 to Robert Marsham, 1st Baron Marsham, of Mote House (Kent)...sold 1887 to Maidstone Borough Council; to Kent County Council.



Astley family of Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval, baronets and Barons Hastings



Astley, Thomas (1469-1543). Son of Thomas Astley (d. 1501) and his wife Margery, daughter of William Lomner, born 1469. He married 1st, Anne, daughter of Edward Boughton of Lawford (Warks); 2nd, c.1505, Anne alias Ellen (d. 1512), daughter of Robert Wood of East Barsham (Norfk) and sister of Elizabeth (c.1480-1538), wife of Sir James Boleyn of Blickling (Norfk); and 3rd, after 1512, Anne Cruse, and had issue*:
(1.1) John Astley (c.1503-58) (q.v.);
(1.2) Thomas Astley (fl. 1558); a Privy Councillor to King Henry VIII and a member of the Marquess of Northampton's embassy to France, 1551; he went into exile during the reign of Queen Mary I and lived in Frankfurt (Germany), where he became a citizen in 1558; married Mary, daughter of Sir Anthony Denny of Cheshunt (Herts);
(2.1) John Astley (c.1507-96) [for whom see below, under Astley of Maidstone];
(2.3) Anne Astley (fl. 1510);
(2.4) Elizabeth Astley (fl. 1510);
(2.5) Margaret Astley (fl. 1510);
(3.1) Richard Astley (fl. 1545-54); educated at St. John's College, Cambridge (admitted 1545; BA 1550/1; MA 1554); Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 1551.
He inherited the Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates from his father in 1501.
He died 19 October 1543. His first wife's date of death is unknown. His second wife is said to have died in premature childbirth, while on a visit to her sister at Blickling (Norfk) in 1512 and was buried at Blickling, where she is commemorated by a brass. His third wife's date of death is unknown.
* The sources are very confused about which children came from which marriage; all that seems certain is that the two Johns were children of the first and second marriages; and that Anne Wood, the second wife, died in 1512.

Astley, John (c.1503-58). Eldest son of Thomas Astley (1469-1543) and his first wife Anne Boughton. He married, c.1534 at Sittingbourne (Kent), Frances (1508-79), daughter and heiress of John Cheney of Sittingbourne (Kent) and had issue:
(1) Bridget Astley (c.1535-69); married Walter Harlackenden of Woodchurch (Kent) and had issue one son and two daughters; died 28 June 1569 and was buried at Tunstall (Kent);
(2) Elizabeth Astley (b. c.1537); married, 19 May 1561 at Melton Constable, William Cheney of Higham and Sittingbourne (Kent), son of John Cheney of Higham, and had issue three sons;
(3) Isaac Astley (c.1540-98) (q.v.);
(4) Jacob Astley (b. c.1541); living in 1558 but apparently dead by 1579;
(5) Cheney Astley (b. c.1543); living in 1579;
(6) Anne Astley (b. c.1545); married 1st, Richard L'Estrange of Hunstanton and had issue three sons; and 2nd, 1571, John Bowles (d. 1598) of Earsham Park (Norfk) and had issue at least one daughter; apparently living in 1598.
He inherited the Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates from his father in 1543.
He was buried at Melton Constable, 7 December 1558; his will was proved 8 February 1558/9. His widow was buried at Melton Constable, 16 April 1579; her will was proved 4 November 1579.

Astley, Isaac (c.1540-98). Eldest son of John Astley (c.1503-58) and his wife Frances, daughter of John Cheyney of Sittingbourne (Kent), born about 1540. He married Mary (fl. 1598), daughter of Edward Waldegrave of Lawford (Essex) and had issue:
(1) Thomas Astley (1567-1617) (q.v.);
(2) John Astley (b. 1568), baptised at Melton Constable, 21 October 1568; died young;
(3) Edward Astley (b. c.1570); living in 1578 but probably died young;
(4) Francis Astley (1571-73), baptised at Melton Constable, 8 April 1571; died in infancy and was buried there, 15 April 1573;
(5) Anne Astley (1572-73), baptised at Melton Constable, 16 November 1572; died in infancy and was buried there, 8 April 1573;
(6) Marie Astley (b. 1573), baptised at Melton Constable, 4 January 1573/4; probably died young;
(7) Anne Astley (1577-1650), baptised at Melton Constable, 29? February 1576/7; married Rowland Fowler of Weeting (Norfk) and had issue; buried at Weeting, 21 November 1650;
(8) Frances Astley (b. 1578), baptised at Melton Constable, 6 March 1577/8; living in 1598;
(9) Sir Jacob Astley (1579-1653) [for whom see below, under Astley family of Maidstone, Barons Astley of Reading];
(10) Francis Astley (b. 1580), baptised at Melton Constable, 12 March 1580/1; died young;
(11) Isaac Astley (b. 1582), baptised at Melton Constable, 1 March 1581/2; living in 1598;
(12) Abraham Astley (b. 1583), baptised at Melton Constable, 21 February 1582/3; living in 1598;
(13) Mary Astley (b. 1585), baptised at Melton Constable, 10 August 1585; living in 1598;
(14) Col. Waldegrave Astley (1586-1644), baptised at Melton Constable, 2 January 1586/7; died 1644;
(15) John Astley (b. c.1588); living in 1598;
(16) Rev. Richard Astley (1591-1652), baptised at Melton Constable, 20 February 1590/1; educated at Queens' College, Cambridge (matriculated 1612; BA 1615/6; MA 1619); ordained priest, 1617; rector of Melton Constable and Burgh Parva, 1617-52; married, 1631 at Ingatestone (Essex), Jane Fust (d. 1660); buried at Melton Constable, 1 November 1652;
(17) Jane Astley (b. 1594), baptised at Melton Constable, 13 January 1593/4; living in 1598.
He inherited the Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates from his father in 1558 and came of age in 1561.
He was buried at Melton Constable, 31 January 1597/8; his will was proved 20 May 1598 and an inquisition post mortem was held the same year. His widow's date of death has not been traced.

Astley, Thomas (1567-1617). Eldest son of Isaac Astley (c.1540-98) and his wife Mary, daughter of Edward Waldegrave of Lawford (Essex), baptised at Melton Constable, 12 October 1567. He married, 18 June 1593 at Melton Constable, Frances, daughter and co-heir of George Deane of Tilney and had issue:
(1) Sir Francis Astley (1595-1638), kt. (q.v.); 
(2) Mary Astley (1596-98), baptised at Melton Constable, 6 May 1596; died in infancy and was buried at Melton Constable, 27 April 1598;
(3) Dorothy Astley (1598-1677), baptised at Melton Constable, 13 March 1597/8; died unmarried and was buried at Melton Constable, 7 February 1677;
(4) Thomas Astley (1599-1616); died unmarried and was buried at Melton Constable, 10 April 1616;
(5) Sir Isaac Astley (1600-59), 1st bt. (q.v.);
(6) Mary Astley (1602-86), baptised at Melton Constable, 14 June 1602; married Sir William Cooke (c.1593-1681), kt. of Broome Hall and had issue eight children; buried at Broome (Norfk), 16 February 1686;
(7) Sir Edward Astley (1604/5-54), kt. (q.v.).
He inherited the Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates from his father in 1598.
He was buried at Melton Constable, 27 May 1617; his will was proved 12 July 1617. His widow's date of death has not been traced.

Astley, Sir Francis (1595-1638), kt. Eldest son of Thomas Astley (1567-1617) and his wife Frances, daughter and co-heir of George Deane of Tilney (Norfk), baptised at Melton Constable, 26 January 1594/5. Educated at Holt Grammar School. Knighted at Whitehall, 30 April 1632; High Sheriff of Norfolk, 1636. He married, September 1621 at Watford (Herts), Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Altham of Oxhey (Herts) but had no issue.
He inherited the Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates from his father in 1617. At his death they passed to his younger brother, Sir Isaac Astley.
He was buried 7 June 1638; his will was proved 14 June 1638. His widow married 2nd, 24 February 1641/2, Robert Digby (d. 1642), 1st Baron Digby of Geashill, and 3rd. Sir Robert Bernard (1601-66), 1st bt., serjeant-at-law, and died 3 January 1662/3.

Sir Isaac Astley (1600-59), 1st bt.
Image: National Trust Images
Astley, Sir Isaac (1600-59), 1st bt. Second son of Thomas Astley (1567-1617) and his wife Frances, daughter and co-heir of George Deane of Tilney (Norfk), baptised at Melton Constable, 4 August 1600. Educated at Holt Grammar School. High Sheriff of Warwickshire, 1641-42 and Norfolk, 1645-46. He was knighted, 21 January 1641/2, and created a baronet the same day. He married 1st, perhaps 25 January 1638 at Hackford (Norfk)*, Rachel (1608-39), daughter of Augustine Messenger of Hackford, and 2nd, 25 January 1640/1 at Holkham (Norfk), Bridget (d. 1700), daughter of John Coke of Holkham and widow of Edward D'Oyly of Shottisham (Norfk), but had no issue.
He inherited the Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates from his elder brother in 1638. At his death they passed to his nephew, Sir Jacob Astley (1640-1729), 1st bt.
He died 7 December and was buried at Melton Constable, 9 December 1659, where he was commemorated by a monument. His first wife was buried at Melton Constable, 20 October 1639. His widow died in October 1700.
* This date and place are given in a number of apparently independent online sources, but I cannot find a corresponding entry in the parish register for either of the parishes in Norfolk called Hackford.

Sir Edward Astley (1604/5-54)
Astley, Sir Edward (1604/5-54). Third son of Thomas Astley (1567-1617) and his wife Frances, daughter and co-heir of George Deane of Tilney (Norfk), born in 1604 or 1605. High Sheriff of Norfolk, 1652-53. He was knighted at Whitehall, 5 December 1641. He married, 27 August 1639 at Melton Constable, his cousin, Elizabeth (d. 1684), daughter of Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading, and had issue:
(1) Sir Jacob Astley (1640-1729), 1st bt. (q.v.).
(2) Frances Astley (d. 1645); buried at Melton Constable, 16 June 1645;
(3) Mary Astley; died young in the lifetime of her father;
(4) Francis Astley; died young in the lifetime of his father;
(5) Thomas Astley (d. 1645); buried at Melton Constable, 29 April 1645;
(6) John Astley (d. 1646); buried at Melton Constable, 26 March 1646;
(7) Agneta Astley (b. & d. 1648); buried at Melton Constable, 24/25 August 1648.
He died aged 49, 15 March, and was buried at Melton Constable 16 March 1653/4, where he is commemorated by a monument; his will was proved 13 May 1654. His widow married 2nd, Henry Clifton (d. 1670) of Toftrees (Norfk), died 22 January 1683/4 and was also buried at Melton Constable.


Sir Jacob Astley, 1st bt.
Astley, Sir Jacob (1640-1729), 1st bt. Only surviving son of Sir Edward Astley (1604/5-54) and his wife the Hon. Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading, born 7 July and baptised at Melton Constable, 14 July 1640. Educated at Norwich Grammar School, Kings College, Cambridge (matriculated 1657) and Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1659). He was created a baronet, 25 June 1660. Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, 1662-88. JP for Norfolk, 1660-88, 1689-1729; DL for Norfolk, 1664-88, 1689-1729; High Sheriff of Norfolk, 1663-64; Capt. of Militia Horse, 1660-76; Col. of Militia Foot, 1676-88 and probably 1689-97. Always a moderate Tory in politics, he voted increasingly with the Whigs and was counted as one of them by 1713 at the latest; he was MP for Norfolk, 1685-87, 1689-90, 1695-1701, 1702-05, 1710-22 and a Lord Commissioner for Trade, 1714-17. He married, 6 February 1661 at Kimberley (Norfk), Blanch, eldest daughter of Sir Philip Wodehouse, 3rd bt. of Kimberley Hall, and had issue:
(1) Jacob Astley (1663-81), baptised at Kimberley, 27 May 1663; educated at Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1680); died at Oxford, 9 June 1681 and was buried at Melton Constable;
(2) Sir Philip Astley (1667-1739), 2nd bt. (q.v.)
(3) Edward Astley (d. 1672); died young, 7 January 1672 and was buried at Melton Constable;
(4) Blanch Astley (b. 1672), born 20 March and baptised 2 April 1672; died unmarried;
(5) Elizabeth Astley (b. & d. 1676), born 10 April 1676; died in infancy, 22 April 1676 and was buried at Melton Constable;
(6) John Astley (c.1677-1719); perhaps the Mr. Astley who was admitted to Clare College, Cambridge in 1695; travelled in Italy, c.1714-16 (visiting Rome, Venice and Padua); married, 20 May 1718 at St. Anne, Soho, London, Catherine Frances (c.1689-c.1730) (who m2, 13 February 1721/2 at St George the Martyr, Queen Square, Westminster (Middx), Wingate Pulleine of Boulton (Yorks)), daughter and co-heir of Philip Babington of Babington, who brought him estates in Northumberland and Durham, but had no issue; died June 1719 and was buried at Maidstone, 4 July 1719; will proved 2 July 1719.
He inherited the Hill Morton and Melton Constable estates from his uncle in 1659, and the entailed lands of his maternal grandfather, Lord Astley of Reading, on the death of his cousin, the 3rd Baron, in 1688. He was responsible for rebuilding Melton Constable Hall from 1664 onwards. He sold the manorial rights at Hillmorton in 1690 while retaining an estate there, and he sold the Kent estates in 1720.
He died 17 August and was buried at Melton Constable, 21 August 1729. His will was proved 1 April 1730. His wife's date of death has not been traced; it is frequently given as 1697 but this appears to be a confusion with the burial of her granddaughter of the same name (see below).


Sir Philip Astley (1667-1739), 2nd bt.
by Sir Godfrey Kneller.
Astley, Sir Philip (1667-1739), 2nd bt. Second but only surviving son of Sir Jacob Astley (1640-1729), 1st bt., and his wife Blanch, eldest daughter of Sir Philip Wodehouse, 3rd bt., born 20 July and baptised at Melton Constable, 30 July 1667. He succeeded his father as 2nd baronet, 17 August 1729. He married, 2 December 1690, Elizabeth (c.1671-1738), daughter and heiress of Thomas Bransby of Caistor (Norfk) and had issue:
(1) Sir Jacob Astley (1692-1760), 3rd bt. (q.v.);
(2) Elizabeth Astley (1693-1766), born 6 May and baptised at Melton Constable, 12 May 1693; her portrait painted by John Theodore Heins, 1736; married, 18 October 1739 at Tuttington (Norfk), Caleb Elwin (1704-76) (who m2, 27 November 1766, Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. John Tomison of Swanton Morley (Norfk)) of Thurning (Norfk), but had no issue; buried at Thurning, 23 August 1766;
(3) Philip Astley (1694-1761), born 20 August and baptised at Melton Constable, 6 September 1694; died unmarried and was buried at Melton Constable, 18 December 1761;
(5) Blanch Astley (1695-98), born at Hindolveston, 16 October and baptised at Melton Constable, 22 October 1695; died in infancy and was buried at St Margaret, Westminster, 1 March 1697/8;
(3) Edward Astley (1699-1763), born at Hindolveston, 9 March and baptised at Melton Constable, 15 March 1698/9; educated at Middle Temple (admitted 1716); a commissioner of the salt office, 1722-63 and a commissioner of customs and salt duties etc. in Scotland, 1742-63; died unmarried, about August 1763;
(4) Rev. Thomas Astley (1700-43), born at Hindolveston, 23 June and baptised at Melton Constable, 30 June 1700; educated at Bishops Stortford Grammar School and Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge (admitted 1718; LLB 1723; Fellow, 1723-25); ordained priest, 1724; rector of Bintree, Foulsham, Brandistone and Gunton (Norfk), 1724-43; married, 17 March 1727/8 at St. Dunstan-in-the-East, London, Anne, daughter of William Bedford of Foulsham but had no issue; died 20 November and was buried at Foulsham, 23 November 1743; his will was proved 30 May 1744;
(7) Jemima Astley (b. 1703), born 3 August and baptised at Melton Constable, 9 August 1703; married 1st, 1731, Roger Metcalfe (1680-1745) of Hawstead and London, surgeon, and had issue three sons; married 2nd, 28 May 1745 at St Benet, Paul's Wharf, London, Henry Groom (b. 1699), linen draper, keeper of the Guildhall and member of the Worshipful Company of Musicians; living in 1745.
He inherited the Melton Constable and Hillmorton estates from his father in 1729.
He died 7 July and was buried at Melton Constable 12 August 1739, where he and his wife are commemorated by a monument designed by Robert Page; his will was proved 4 August 1739. His wife died 30 March and was buried at Melton Constable, 7 April 1738.


Sir Jacob Astley, 3rd bt.
Astley, Sir Jacob (1692-1760), 3rd bt. Only surviving son of Sir Philip Astley (1667-1739), 3rd bt., and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Thomas Bransby of Caistor (Norfk), born 3 January and baptised 23 January 1691/2. Educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (admitted 1711). A keen musician, he was depicted by John Theodore Heins as the central figure in a musical conversation piece (reproduced above). He succeeded his father as 3rd baronet, 7 July 1739. He married 1st, 21 February 1722/3 at Gressenhall (Norfk), Lucy (1699-1739), younger daughter of Sir Nicholas Le Strange, 4th bt. and sister and co-heir of Sir Henry Le Strange, 6th bt.; 2nd, 1 May 1740 at Finchingfield (Essex), Judith (c.1694-1743), daughter of Isaac Watlington MP and widow of Gresham Page (d. 1742) of Saxthorpe; and 3rd, 14 July 1744, Sarah (c.1700-64), eldest daughter and co-heir of Christopher Bedingfield of Wighton (Norfk), and had issue:
(1.1) Isabella Astley (1724-41), born 27 January and baptised at Melton Constable, 31 January 1723/4; died unmarried and was buried at Melton Constable, 18 December 1741;
(1.2) Blanch Astley (1726-1805), born 23 August and baptised at Melton Constable, 2 September 1726; married, 31 December 1753 at Melton Constable, Edward Pratt (1717-84) of Ryston Hall (Norfk), son of Roger Pratt of Ryston, and had issue one son and two daughters; buried at Ryston, 15 May 1805;
(1.3) Sir Edward Astley (1729-1802), 4th bt. (q.v.);
(1.4) Thomas Astley (b. & d. 1733), born and baptised at Hindolveston, 29 January 1732/3; died in infancy and was buried at Melton Constable, 7 February 1732/3;
(1.5) Rev. John Astley (1734-1803), born and baptised at Hindolveston, 21 August 1734; educated at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge (admitted 1752; LLB 1759); ordained deacon and priest, 1758; rector of Thornage and Brinton, 1758-1803; rector of Bintree, 1759-71; rector of Foulsham, 1771-1803; married, 16 April 1762, Catherine, daughter of Henry Bell of Wallington Hall (Norfk) and had issue two daughters; died 28 May 1803 and was buried at Thornage, where he is commemorated by a monument.
He inherited the Melton Constable and Hillmorton estates from his father in 1739, and made alterations to the house at Melton Constable in 1757.
He died 5 January and was buried at Melton Constable, 11 January 1760, where he is commemorated by a monument designed by Robert Page; his will was proved 26 January 1760. His first wife died 25 July 1739 and was buried at Melton Constable. His second wife died without issue, 7 March and was buried at Melton Constable, 9 March 1742/3; both ladies are commemorated on a monument designed by Robert Page. His widow died without issue at Bath and was buried at Melton Constable, 9 August 1764; her will was proved August 1764.


Sir Edward Astley, 4th bt. by Francis Cotes.
Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
Astley, Sir Edward (1729-1802), 4th bt. Eldest son of Sir Jacob Astley (1692-1760), 3rd bt. and his first wife Lucy Le Strange, born 25 December and baptised at Melton Constable, 26 December 1729. Educated at Bury St Edmunds Grammar School and Pembroke College, Cambridge (admitted 1747). He succeeded his father as 4th baronet, 5 January 1760. High Sheriff of Norfolk, 1763-64. MP for Norfolk, 1768-90; he came in at an extremely expensive contested election but was elected unopposed thereafter; although he explicitly disclaimed any party alignment he normally voted with the Rockingham Whigs; he was fond of speaking in the House of Commons but was not an orator of the first calibre. The English Chronicle described him as "open and affable in his manner, unaffected in his conversation, and generous and liberal in his principles". He was a freemason, and Provincial Grand Master of Norfolk from 1785. He married 1st, 1751, Rhoda (1725-57), eldest surviving daughter of Francis Blake Delaval of Seaton Delaval (Northbld) and sister of 1st Baron Delaval; 2nd, 24 February 1759 at St Margaret, Westminster (Middx), Anne (d. 1792), youngest daughter of Christopher Milles of Nackington (Kent), who in 1783-84 travelled in Italy with her youngest son; and 3rd, 30 July 1793, Elizabeth Bullen (d. 1810), and had issue:
(1.1) Edward Astley (1753-57), baptised at Earsdon (Northbld), 29 April 1753; died young and was buried at Widcombe (Somerset), 21 October 1757;
(1.2) Editha Rhoda Astley (1754-57); died young and was buried at Widcombe (Somerset), 21 October 1757;
(1.3) Sir Jacob Henry Astley (1756-1817), 5th bt. (q.v.);
(1.4) Francis Astley (1757-78); midshipman in Royal Navy; died unmarried when he was killed on the frigate Arethusa in an engagement with the French off the Isle of Bars, June 1778; presumably buried at sea;
(2.1) Anna Maria Astley (1759-68), born 28 December 1759 and baptised at St. Margaret, Westminster (Middx), 15 March 1760; died young and was buried at Melton Constable, 3 April 1768;
(2.2) Lt-Col. Edward John Astley (1761-1806), born 11 June and baptised at Melton Constable, 17 August 1761; an officer in the 1st Life Guards, 1777-90 (retired as Lt-Col.) and Norfolk Fencible Cavalry (Major, 1794); equerry for eight years to Henry Frederick (1745-90), Duke of Cumberland; lived at Richmond (Surrey); married, 6 October 1800 at St Pancras (Middx), Anne Lett, but had no issue by her; he did, however, have a natural son born in 1788 (Capt. Sir Edward Corry Astley RN (1788-1841)); died 3 June 1806 and was buried in the Vineyard Passage Burial Ground, Richmond; will proved 17 July 1806;
(2.3) Rev. Bernard Astley (1764-89), born 31 August 1764; educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge (admitted 1783; BA 1787); ordained deacon, 1786 and priest, 1788; rector of Little Snoring (Norfk) and Bratton (Somerset), 1788; married, 31 August 1787 at Salle (Norfk), Anne (d. 1830) (who m2, 2 September 1791 at Sculthorpe (Norfk), Rev. Matthew Jones (d. 1808), rector of Sculthorpe, and m3, 16 February 1810 at Sculthorpe, Rev. Horatio Dowsing (c.1758-1843), vicar of Hindringham and rector of North Barsham), daughter of Edward Hase of Salle, but had no issue; died at East Barsham (Norfk), 25 November 1788 and was buried at Melton Constable where he is commemorated by a memorial erected by his widow;
(2.4) Rev. Henry Nicholas Astley (1767-1854), born 5 January 1767; educated at Westminster, Lincolns Inn (admitted 1785) and Christ's College, Cambridge (admitted 1785; BA 1789; MA 1792); travelled in Italy and Holland with funding from Cambridge University's Worts Travelling Bachelors Fund; ordained deacon and priest, 1791; rector of Little Snoring, 1791 and of East Barsham, 1791-1854; rector of Bintree with Themelthorpe, 1799-1804; rector of Foulsham, 1803-33; married, 20 February 1798, Sarah, daughter of Samuel Pitman of Exeter (Devon) and had issue two sons and three daughters; died 14 August 1854 and was buried at East Barsham (Norfk);
(2.5) William Coke Astley (1769-89), born 13 January and baptised at St Margaret, Westminster, 13 March 1769; in February 1784, while travelling in Italy with his mother, he was sent home from Italy alone on a boat which was captured by Sclavonian pirates, who sent him to Corsica with the rest of the crew; he was rescued two months later and continued his journey on an English brig in May; he died unmarried and without issue at Calcutta, 4 November 1789; administration of his goods granted in London, March 1791;
(2.6) Louisa Maria Astley (b. & d. 1771), born 1 June and baptised at St Margaret, Westminster, 28 June 1771; died in infancy and was buried at St Margaret, Westminster, 12 July 1771;
(2.7) Richard Astley (1773-77), born 18 September 1773 and was baptised at St Margaret, Westminster, 31 October 1773 and again at Melton Constable, 14 September 1774; died young and was buried at Melton Constable, 10 July 1777.
He inherited the Hillmorton and Melton Constable estates from his father in 1760, but was obliged to sell Hillmorton to meet the expenses of his first election to Parliament in 1768 and the cost of the Capability Brown improvements to the park at Melton Constable.
He died 27 March and was buried at Melton Constable, 2 April 1802; his will was proved 7 June 1803. His first wife died at Bath, and was buried at Widcombe (Somerset), 21 October 1757, where she is commemorated by a monument erected by the 5th bt. in 1808. His second wife died 11 July and was buried at Melton Constable, 23 July 1792. His widow died at New Walsingham (Norfolk) and was buried there, 2 November 1810; her will was proved 8 December 1810.


Sir Jacob Henry Astley, 5th bt. by Benjamin Burnell.
©National Trust Images/John Hammond
Astley, Sir Jacob Henry (1756-1817), 5th bt. Second but eldest surviving son of Sir Edward Astley (1729-1802), 4th bt., and his first wife, Rhoda, eldest surviving daughter of Francis Blake Delaval of Seaton Delaval (Northbld), born 8 September and baptised at St Margaret, Westminster (Middx), 21 October 1756. Educated at Westminster, 1765-74 and Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1776). Captain in East Norfolk Militia, 1780-94 and Lt-Col. of Norfolk Fencible Cavalry, 1794-99. He may be the Capt. Astley who was in Rome in March 1784. MP for Norfolk, 1797-1817; in 1802 he was obliged to fight a contested election and faced scandalous charges by his opponents for which he subsequently obtained libel damages of £2,000 (it was alleged that he was ‘a liar, a coward, an assassin, a scoundrel, a murderer; and he murdered his own father’; counsel for the defence asserting that Astley’s misconduct and unkindness had broken his father's heart; his wife was also obliged to deny on the hustings that he beat her). He succeeded his father as 5th baronet, 27 March 1802. He married, 14 January 1789 at St Margaret, Kings Lynn (Norfk), Hester (1767-1855), youngest daughter and co-heir of Samuel Browne of King's Lynn, and had issue:
(1) Rhoda Astley (1790-1808), born 15 February and baptised at Melton Constable, 17 February 1790; died unmarried when her clothes caught fire sitting in front of the fire, and was buried 5 April 1808;
(2) Anne Astley (1791-1833), born 23 February and baptised at Melton Constable, 25 February 1791; married, 26 October 1820 at St. Marylebone (Middx), Thomas Potter MacQueen MP (1792-1854) of Ridgmont House (Beds) and had issue two sons and two daughters; buried at Melton Constable, 9 April 1833;
(3) Editha Astley (1793-1871), born 17 June and baptised at Melton Constable, 18 June 1793; married, 23 March 1825 at St. Marylebone (Middx), Warden George Sergison (1801-68) of Cuckfield Park (Sussex) and later Liscombe Park (Bucks) and had issue one son and three daughters; died 27 March 1871; administration of goods granted 10 August 1871 (effects under £12,000);
(4) Sir Jacob Astley (1797-1859), 6th bt. and later 16th Baron Hastings (q.v.);
(5) Edward Astley (1799-1846), baptised at Melton Constable, 18 January 1799; educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1818) and St Mary Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1826); cornet in 11th Dragoons, 1822; admitted a freemason, 1823; DL for Norfolk, 1843; lived at Hotton in Namur province (Belgium); was unmarried and without issue; found drowned in the R. Ourthe near his house in Belgium and was probably murdered, 4 April 1846; buried at Melton Constable, 21 April 1846;
(6) Hester Astley (1800-67), born 29 September and baptised at Melton Constable, 3 October 1800; married, 16 June 1825 at St George's, Hanover Square, London, Rev. Augustus Dashwood (1795-1863), rector of Thornage, younger son of Sir Henry Watkin Dashwood, 3rd bt., of Kirtlington Park (Oxon), and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 31 August 1867 and was buried at Folkestone (Kent), 5 September 1867;
(7) Sophia Astley (1802-07), born 6 May and baptised at Melton Constable, 7 May 1802; died young and was buried at Melton Constable, 18 October 1802;
(8) Agnes Astley (1805-71), born 16 January and baptised at Melton Constable, 19 January 1805; married, 10 September 1825 at St George's, Hanover Square, London, Rev. John Henry Sparke, rector of Gunthorpe (Norfk) and canon and Chancellor of Ely Cathedral, son of Rt. Rev. B.E. Sparke, bishop of Ely, and had issue; died 30 July 1871; will proved 28 August 1871 (effects under £25,000);
(9) Lt-Col. Francis L'Estrange Astley (1810-66), born 27 February and baptised at Melton Constable, 28 February 1810; educated at Eton; an officer in the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry (Cornet, 1833; Capt., 1853; Lt-Col.); lived at Burgh Hall, Melton Constable and after his second marriage at Chequers Court (Bucks); married 1st, 28 July 1836, Charlotte (1816-48), daughter of Nathaniel Micklethwait of Taverham (Norfk) and had issue four sons and two daughters; married 2nd, 7 September 1854, Rosalind Alicia (d. 1900), daughter of Sir Robert Frankland Russell, 7th bt. and had issue five further sons; died 9 April 1866; will proved 16 July 1866 (effects under £25,000).
He inherited the Melton Constable estate from his father in 1802 and Seaton Delaval from his maternal uncle in 1814.
He died 28 April and was buried at Melton Constable, 10 May 1817, where he was commemorated by a monument erected by his widow in 1808. His widow, who was severely burned attempting to assist her elder daughter in a fatal fire in 1808, died at Burgh Hall (Norfk), 13 January 1855.


Sir Jacob Astley, 6th bt. & 16th Baron Hastings.
©National Trust Images/John Hammond
Astley, Sir Jacob (1797-1859), 6th bt. and 16th Baron Hastings. Eldest son of Sir Jacob Henry Astley (1756-1817), 5th bt., and his wife Hester, daughter of Samuel Browne of King's Lynn, born at Burgh Hall, 13 November 1797 and baptised at Melton Constable the same day. Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated, 1817; DCL 1820). He succeeded his father as 6th baronet, 28 April 1817. High Sheriff of Norfolk, 1821-22; Liberal MP for West Norfolk, 1832-37 (although later he tended to vote with the Conservatives). In 1840 he House of Lords determined the rightful descent of the barony of Hastings, which had been in effect dormant since the death of the 5th Baron in 1389, and it was called out of abeyance in Sir Jacob's favour, 18 May 1841, when he was summoned by writ to the House of Lords as 16th Baron Hastings. Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, 1848. He was evidently of a hasty temper and willing to defend his honour with violence; as late as the 1850s he threatened to horsewhip the editor of a local paper (who was at the time mayor of Norwich) for offensive remarks he had published. He married, 22 March 1819 at St George's, Hanover Square, London, Georgiana Caroline (1796-1835), second daughter of Sir Henry Watkin Dashwood, 3rd bt., of Kirtlington Park (Oxon), from whom he was separated in about 1826 after she eloped with a Capt. Garth, whom Astley sued for 'criminal conversation' with his wife, seeking damages of £12,000; he was awarded one shilling after it emerged in the trial that Astley habitually consorted with prostitutes. They had issue:
(1) Sir Jacob Henry Delaval Astley (1822-71), 7th bt. & 17th Baron Hastings (q.v.);
(2) Rev. Sir Delaval Loftus Astley (1825-72), 8th bt. & 18th Baron Hastings (q.v.).
He inherited the Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval estates from his father in 1817 and came of age in 1818.
He died suddenly in London, 27 December 1859; his will was proved 19 April 1860 (effects under £100,000). His wife lived after her separation from Sir Jacob with Capt. Garth, latterly in the Kings Bench Prison, where she gave birth to a daughter in 1835 and died of scarlet fever, 28 June 1835.

Astley, Sir Jacob Henry Delaval (1822-71), 7th bt. and 17th Baron Hastings. Elder son of Sir Jacob Astley (1797-1859), 6th bt. & 16th Baron Hastings, and his wife Georgiana Carolina, second daughter of Sir Henry Watkin Dashwood, 3rd bt., of Kirtlington Park (Oxon), born 21 May and baptised at St. Marylebone (Middx), 5 June 1822. Educated at Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1840). An officer in 2nd Life Guards, 1848-51; Hon. Col. of Norfolk militia. A Liberal in politics. Master of Foxhounds hunting the eastern division of Norfolk, 1861-71. President of Holt Agricultural Society. He married, 19 May 1860 at Clifton (Glos), Frances (1829-84), daughter of Thomas Cosham, but had no issue.
He inherited the Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval estates from his father in 1859.
He died 8 March 1871. His widow married 2nd, 10 September 1873, Robert Heane of Barnwood (Glos) and died 30 December 1884.


Rev. Delaval Loftus Astley (1825-72)
18th Baron Hastings
Astley, Rev. Sir Delaval Loftus (1825-72), 8th bt. and 18th Baron Hastings. Younger son of Sir Jacob Astley (1797-1859), 6th bt. & 16th Baron Hastings, and his wife Georgiana Carolina, second daughter of Sir Henry Watkin Dashwood, 3rd bt., of Kirtlington Park (Oxon), born 24 March 1825 and baptised at St George, Hanover Square, London, the following day. Educated at Eton, 1839-43, and Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1843; MA 1846). Ordained deacon, 1851 and priest, 1852. Rector of Foulsham, 1854-55; rector of East Barsham and vicar of Little Snoring, 1855-71. He succeeded his brother as 18th Baron Hastings, 8 March 1871. He married, 8 August 1848 at All Souls, Langham Place, London, Hon. Frances Diana (1829-74), daughter of Sir Charles Manners-Sutton, 1st Viscount Canterbury, and had issue:
(1) Sir Bernard Edward Delaval Astley (1855-75), 9th bt. & 19th Baron Hastings (q.v.);
(2) Sir George Manners Astley (1857-1904), 10th bt. & 20th Baron Hastings (q.v.);
(3) Hon. Agneta Frances Delaval Astley (1864-1918), baptised at East Barsham, 5 June 1864; married, 22 October 1891 at St. Andrew, Marylebone (Middx), her cousin Roland Le Strange (c.1869-1919), son of Hamon Le Strange of Hunstanton Hall (Norfk) and had issue one son; died 3 October 1918;
(4) Hon. Henry Jacob Astley (1867-1909), born 2 March and baptised at East Barsham, 5 May 1867; an officer in the Suffolk Yeomanry Cavalry (2nd Lt., 1889); married, 8 July 1891, Sybil (1871-1935), second daughter of Charles George Fountaine of Narford Hall (Norfk), but had no issue; lived at East Winch Hall (Norfk); died 25 August 1909.
He inherited the Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval estates from his elder brother in 1871.
He died 28 September 1872; his will was proved 29 October 1872 (effects under £30,000). His widow died 1 June 1874.


Bernard E.D. Astley (1855-75)
19th Baron Hastings
Astley, Sir Bernard Edward Delaval (1855-75), 9th bt. and 19th Baron Hastings. Eldest son of Rev. Sir Delaval Loftus Astley (1825-72), 8th bt. & 18th Baron Hastings, and his wife, the Hon. Frances Diana Manners-Sutton, born 9 September and baptised at East Barsham (Norfk), 26 November 1855. Educated at Eton, 1869-72 and Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1873). Succeeded his father as 19th Baron Hastings, 28 September 1872. An officer in the Norfolk Militia Artillery (2nd Lt., 1875). He was travelling in India on a game shooting trip when he died unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval estates from his father in 1872, but died before coming of age.
He died of 'jungle fever' at Tangore (India), 22 December 1875 and was buried there, 24 December 1875; administration of his goods was granted 25 May 1876 (effects under £3,000).


George Manners Astley (1857-1904)
20th Baron Hastings
Astley, Maj. Sir George Manners (1857-1904), 10th bt. and 20th Baron Hastings. Second son of Rev. Sir Delaval Loftus Astley (1825-72), 8th bt. & 18th Baron Hastings, and his wife, the Hon. Frances Diana Manners-Sutton, born 4 April and baptised at East Barsham (Norfk), 4 July 1857. Educated at Eton, 1871-72, and Trinity College, Cambridge (although he seems not to have been entered in the official records of the university). He succeeded his elder brother as 20th Baron Hastings, 22 December 1875. He was an officer in the Norfolk Artillery (Maj.) and a JP for Norfolk. A well-known sportsman, fond of cricket, yachting and hunting, he won the Derby and St. Leger with 'Melton' in 1885 and was elected to the Jockey Club in 1880 (Senior Steward, 1885-88). In 1888 he visited Australia, where his brother-in-law, Earl Carrington, was Governor-General. In 1893 he was convicted of indecent exposure in Regent's Park, but the conviction was quashed on appeal after evidence emerged of a conspiracy for extortion. He married, 17 April 1880 at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, London, the Hon. Elizabeth Evelyn (1860-1957), third daughter of Charles Harbord, 5th Baron Suffield, and had issue:
(1) Sir Albert Edward Delaval Astley (1882-1956), 11th bt. & 21st Baron Hastings (q.v.);
(2) Hon. Jacob John Astley (1884-1917), born 5 March 1884; 2nd Lt. in 16th Lancers but was obliged to resign his commission when convicted of fraud in South Africa, 1913; he was convicted of the same offence in England, 1915, when the judge described him as 'a thoroughly fraudulent person' and sentenced him to 18 months in prison; on release he volunteered for active service and became Company Serjeant Major of 2nd/5th Battn, Sherwood Foresters; killed in action, 26 September 1917 and was buried at Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke (Belgium);
(3) Hon. Charles Melton Astley (1885-1960), born 5 May 1885; bankrupted, 1911, as a result of losses at cards; Capt. in Northumberland Yeomanry, 1914-19; secretary of the Association of Great Britain and France, c.1919-20; in the early 1920s he lived on his capital and after an unsuccessful legal action sold his furniture and moved to France and then America, where he made some money in land speculation; in 1926 he returned to France as secretary to an American, and then took over the management of a firm at Senlis (France) for Lady Michelham; he was bankrupted again in 1928; served in Second World War as Captain in the Home Guard; married, 30 December 1914 at the Collegiate Church, New York (USA), Evelyn Vere (1879-1969) (known in the 1920s as the screen actress Vere Tyndall), elder daughter of Gen. George Augustus Strover and widow of Leonard Stevens, and had issue one son; died 13 August 1960;
(4) Hon. Alexandra Rhoda Astley (1886-1918), born 28 September 1886; god-daughter to HM Queen Alexandra; married, 16 October 1917, Brig. George Frederick Arthur Pigot-Moodie MC (1888-1959) and had issue one son; died 20 April 1918; administration of her goods granted to her husband, 24 June 1918 (estate £2,349);
(5) Hon. Bridget Astley (1889-1906), born 8 March and baptised at Melton Constable, 9 June 1889; died unmarried in Paris, 2 March 1906; administration of goods granted to her mother, 8 November 1889 (estate £1,406);
(6) Hon. Hester Winifred Astley (1899-1980), born 17 May 1899; married, 26 July 1923, Alan Houghton Broderick (d. 1973), author and translator, Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur, son of Alan Broderick of Wooder Manor (Devon) and had issue one son; lived mainly abroad; died 1980.
He inherited the Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval estates from his elder brother in 1875 and in 1883 owned 12,737 acres in Norfolk and 6,716 acres in Northumberland, together worth £44,452 a year, largely because of the income from coal workings on the Seaton Delaval estate. His town house was at 9 Seymour St., Portman Square, London.
He died of heart disease, 18 September, and was buried at Melton Constable, 22 September 1904; his will was proved 9 December 1904 (estate £465,953). His widow died 19 February 1957; administration of her goods was granted 5 July 1957 (estate £4,737).


Albert Edward Delaval Astley, 21st Baron Hastings
Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
Astley, Sir Albert Edward Delaval (1882-1956), 11th bt. and 21st Baron Hastings. Eldest son of Maj. Sir George Manners Astley (1857-1904), 10th bt. and 20th Baron Hastings, and his wife the Hon. Elizabeth Evelyn, third daughter of Charles Harbord, 5th Baron Suffield, born 24 November 1882. Educated at Eton and Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He succeeded his father as 21st Baron Hastings, 18 September 1904, while in South Africa with his regiment. He was an officer in the 7th Hussars (Lt., 1905; resigned, 1906); and King's Own Royal Regiment of Norfolk Yeomanry (Lt., 1908; Capt.; Adjutant, 1914-16; Major, 1916; retired on health grounds as Lt-Col, 1918); and in the reserve of officers, 1906-37 (Lt-Col, 1920); ADC to Viceroy of Ireland, 1905-06; he served in First World War (mentioned in despatches twice) and Second World War (as Lt-Col. in Home Guard). He was hereditary bearer of a golden spur at the coronations of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II, 1937 and 1953 and was Chairman of the Independent Peers Association in the House of Lords, 1935-56 and a member of Indian States Committee, 1932. Locally, he was a member of Norfolk County Council, 1909-19; appointed JP and DL for Norfolk, 1923 and Vice-Lord Lieutenant, 1937, and was President of North Norfolk Conservative Association, 1937-56. He was prominent in agricultural matters, both nationally and locally, as President of the Country Landowners Association, 1939-56; a member of the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 1908-56 (Vice-President, 1938-56 and a Trustee, 1946-56) and Chairman of its Forestry Committee, 1930-56; Chairman of Norfolk Agricultural Station, 1912-56 and President of the Smithfield Club. 1936. In Church affairs, he was a Commissioner for Clergy Discipline in the province of Canterbury, a Trustee of the Friends of Norwich Cathedral, and High Steward of Norwich Cathedral, 1949-56.  He married, 11 February 1907, Lady Marguerite Helen Nevill (1887-1975), younger daughter of Lt-Col. Henry Gilbert Ralph Nevill, 3rd Marquess of Abergavenny, and had issue:
(1) Hon. Helen Elizabeth Delaval Astley (1907-2006), born 12 November 1907; married 1st, 29 April 1930 at St Peter, Eaton Square, London (div. 1940), Ian Bulloch (d. 1996), son of G.J. Bulloch of Kinloch, Dunkeld (Perths.), and had issue three sons; married 2nd, 1941, George Field (d. 1941) and 3rd, 12 November 1948 at Salisbury (Rhodesia), John David Haw (1910-82), only surviving son of George Haw of Hampstead; lived latterly in Australia, and died there, 19 May 2006; will proved 20 November 2006;
(2) Hon. Armyne Margaret Astley (1909-79), born 19 December 1909; married, 16 August 1933, William George Broadbent Schofield (1899-1987) of Low Burton Hall (Yorks NR), elder son of Capt. George Arthur Schofield of Riseley Hall, Harrogate (Yorks WR) and had issue four daughters; died 2 March 1979; will proved 16 August 1979 (estate £36,636);
(3) Sir Edward Delaval Astley (1912-2007), 12th bt. and 22nd Baron Hastings (q.v.);
(4) Hon. Jean Astley (1917-2000), born 17 April 1917; served in Second World War with WRNS; married, 28 June 1945, Lt-Cdr. Mark Napier RN (1911-62) and had issue one son; died 21 June 2000; will proved 23 November 2000;
(5) Hon. Simon Nevill Astley (1919-46), born 13 August 1919; Maj. in 7th Queens Own Hussars in Second World War (mentioned in despatches); ADC to Commander-in-Chief, India, 1942 and to Viceroy of India, 1943; married, 27 January 1943, Lady Joan Patricia Quirk (b. 1923) (who m2, 19 June 1948, Harry Alastair Gordon (d. 1965), younger son of Cdr. Alastair Gordon DSO RN and m3, Maj. Donald Struan Robertson (d. 1991), son of Sir Malcolm Arnold Robertson GCMG KBE), youngest daughter of Field Marshal 1st Earl Wavell, and had issue one daughter; died at Quetta following a motor accident, 16 March 1946 and was buried at Karachi War Cemetery (Pakistan); will proved 24 July 1946 (estate in England £223).
He inherited the Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval estates from his father in 1904, but sold Melton Constable in 1948 and lived subsequently at Swanton House, Melton Constable.
He died 18 January 1956; his will was proved 11 April 1956 (estate £314,552). His widow died 7 June 1975; her will was proved 23 July (estate £50,451).


Edward Delaval Astley (1912-2007)
22nd Baron Hastings
Astley, Sir Edward Delaval (1912-2007), 12th bt. and 22nd Baron Hastings. Elder son of Sir Albert Edward Delaval Astley (1882-1956), 11th bt. & 21st Baron Hastings, and his wife Lady Marguerite Helen Nevill, daughter of Lt-Col. Henry Gilbert Ralph Nevill, 3rd Marquess of Abergavenny, born 14 April 1912. Educated at Eton and then travelled in France, Spain and the United States. He worked briefly in the City for the Gold Coast Selection Trust and then joined the Coldstream Guards supplementary reserve. He was in America at the outbreak of the Second World War but returned to join his regiment and then transferred to the Intelligence Corps which sent him to North Africa and then Italy, where he took over a Milan radio station and personally announced, in fluent Italian, that the war had ended; he later ran theatre and radio services in Trieste, where he employed Herbert von Karajan. After the war, he joined the board of the London & Eastern Trade Bank, and then bought a 5,000 acre estate in Southern Rhodesia where he set up a tobacco plantation; he retained the estate until 1982 but lived chiefly in England after inheriting the family estates from his father in 1956. He was politically active in Rhodesia as a supporter of Garfield Todd's United Rhodesia Party, which hoped to build a multi-racial future for the countryHe succeeded his father as 22nd Baron Hastings, 18 January 1956 and took his seat in the House of Lords, becoming a member of a Parliamentary delegation to West Indies, 1958 and then joining the Conservative Government as a Lord in Waiting (Government whip), 1961-62, and one of the junior ministers at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, 1962-64; in opposition he was a trenchant critic of the Land Commission and of British sanctions on Rhodesia, but his attention gradually shifted to his work with charities and the arts. He was a Governor of the British Institute in Florence, 1959-97 and Chairman of British Italian Society, 1957-62 (President, 1972-); after the Florence floods he established the Italian People's Flood Appeal, 1966-67, in recognition of which he was made a Grand Officer of the Italian Order of Merit, 1968. He had a lifelong passion for dance, and was a close friend of Margot Fonteyn, Beryl Grey, Frederick Ashton and Constant Lambert; when Dame Ninette de Valois set up the Sadler's Wells Ballet Fund she invited him to become a trustee, and he became a governor of the Royal Ballet, 1971-93 and chairman of associated benevolent funds, 1966-89. After his younger son was born with Down's syndrome, he became patron of the Camphill Village Trust for people with learning difficulties and in 1986 gave them Thornage Hall (Norfk). He was also President of the British Epilepsy Association, 1965-93, the Epilepsy Research Foundation, and the Joint Epilepsy Council, and a member of council of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind from 1963. He married, 7 July 1954, Catherine (Cecilia) Rosaline Ratcliffe (k/a Nicki) (1920-2007), younger daughter of Capt. Harold Virgo Hinton of Walton-in-Gordano (Somerset) and formerly wife of Vernon William Coats (by whom she had one son and one daughter), and had issue:
(1) Hon. Harriet Margeurite Astley (b. 1958), born 15 March 1958; lives in Hammersmith, London W6;
(2) Sir Delaval Thomas Harold Astley (b. 1960), 13th bt. and 23rd Baron Hastings (q.v.);
(3) Hon. Justin Edward Astley (b. 1968), born 22 April 1968; suffers from Down's syndrome and lives at the Camphill Village Trust's Thornage Hall settlement.
He was given the Seaton Delaval estate by his father in 1946 and spent over fifty years restoring the house and opening it to the public. He formed a private apartment in the west wing which became his main home in 1990.
He died 25 April 2007 and was buried at Seaton Delaval; his will was proved 10 & 20 November 2008. His widow died 28 December 2007 and was also buried at Seaton Delaval; her will was proved 16 December 2008.


Delaval Astley (b. 1960)
23rd Baron Hastings
Astley, Sir Delaval Thomas Harold (b. 1960), 13th bt. and 23rd Baron Hastings. Elder son of Sir Edward Delaval Astley (1912-2007), 12th bt. & 22nd Baron Hastings, and his wife Catherine (Cecilia) Rosaline Ratcliffe, younger daughter of Capt. Harold Virgo Hinton of Walton-in-Gordano (Somerset) and formerly wife of Vernon William Coats, born 25 April 1960. Educated at Radley School and Hatfield College, Durham University. Formerly actor (roles included 'Cameron Fraser' in The Archers); now landowner and businessman; Director of annual Holt Festival (Norfolk). He married, 26 July 1987, Veronica M., elder daughter of Richard A. Smart of Chester, and had issue:
(1) Hon. Jacob Addison Astley (b. 1991), born 5 September 1991; educated at Exeter University;
(2) Hon. Molly Ellen Astley (b. 1993), born 20 October 1993; musician (singer/songwriter) and artist;
(3) Hon. Caitlin Anna Astley (b. 1996), born 21 June 1996.
He inherited the Seaton Delaval estate and property in Norfolk from his father in 2007, but sold Seaton Delaval Hall with 442 acres to the National Trust in 2009. He lives at Barney near Fakenham (Norfolk).
Now living.



Astley family of Maidstone, Barons Astley of Reading




John Astley (d. 1596)
Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
Astley, John (c.1507-96). Eldest son of Thomas Astley (1469-1543) of Hillmorton and Melton Constable, and his second wife, Anne, daughter and co-heir of John Wood of East Barsham (Norfk), born about 1507. Perhaps through his family's connection with the Boleyn family, he secured a place at the Court of Henry VIII 'from his age of 12 years' and was a Gentleman Waiter in the household of Prince Edward by 1543. He retained that office until the Prince ascended the throne, after which he moved to join his first wife in the household of Princess Elizabeth, whom he served until c.1554, and where he became a friend of Roger Ascham, the Queen's tutor. In 1549, when Lord Seymour of Sudeley was tried and executed for treasonably plotting to replace King Edward VI by Elizabeth, and incidentally to marry her, both Ashleys were briefly imprisoned and interrogated about Elizabeth's supposed role in the plot, but loyally kept any secrets of their mistress that they knew. By 1552 Astley was well versed in the Italian tongue, and this may imply that he had travelled abroad as a child; he probably did so again in 1553-54, as during the reign of Queen Mary, while his wife remained in the Princess's diminished household whenever she was at liberty, he did not. A portrait of him by an Italian artist painted in 1553/54 surely implies that he, rather than his half-brother of the same name, was the 'John Ashley' recorded as being in Padua in 1554, when it was a centre for Marian exiles, but he was back in England by 1555 when he was elected to Parliament. His wife was again briefly imprisoned in 1556 suspected of complicity in the Dudley conspiracy and of possessing seditious literature. When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 Astley and his wife became significant figures at court: he was made Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber (and his first wife Chief Gentlewoman), Master of the Jewel House, 1558-95 and Treasurer of the Queen's Jewels and Plate, the latter being a lucrative office; he was also Steward of Enfield Manor and Master Forester of Enfield Chase, 1560-73; and Joint Keeper of St. James' Palace and Bailiff of St James' Fair, 1560-76. He served as MP for Chippenham, 1547; West Looe, 1553; St. Albans, 1555; Cricklade, 1559; Boroughbridge, 1563; Lyme Regis, 1571-72 and Maidstone, 1586-89 and he was JP for Middlesex, from 1562 and for Kent, 1583-96; and Commissioner for Musters in Middlesex by 1576. He was awarded an honorary degree by Cambridge University (MA 1564). In 1584 he published The Art of Riding, a manual on horsemanship. He married, 1st, c.1545, Katherine (c.1515-65), probably the daughter of Sir Philip Champernowne, kt. of Modbury (Devon), governess and later gentlewoman to Princess Elizabeth, and 2nd, 13 October 1565, Margaret Lenton alias Grey (d. 1602), illegitimate daughter of Lord Thomas Grey, and had issue:
(2.1) Sir John Astley (c.1569-1640) (q.v.);
(2.2) Thomas Astley; died young;
(2.3) Isaac Astley; died young;
(2.4) Margaret Astley (c.1568-c.1625); married Sir Anthony Neville of Mattersey (Notts) and had issue;
(2.5) Bridget Astley (d. 1625); married, by 1592, as his second wife, Sir Norton Knatchbull (1569-1636) of Merstham-le-Hatch (Kent), but had no issue; died 4 November 1625;
(2.6) Eleanor Astley (b. 1575); married Thomas Knatchbull (1571-1623) of Maidstone, and had issue six sons and four daughters.
He was granted the reversion of a lease of the manor of Allington (Kent) in 1568 and purchased the Maidstone estate from the Crown in 1581. He also owned an estate at Otterden (Kent), which he sold in 1588. Outside Kent, he owned property in Dorset and Middlesex.
He died on 1 August and was buried at Maidstone, 5 August 1596, where is commemorated on the same monument as his son; the monument appears to record his age at death as 89; his will was proved 10 August 1596. His first wife died 18 July 1565. His widow was buried at Maidstone, 21 June 1602, where she also was commemorated on the monument to her son.


Sir John Astley (c.1569-1640)
Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
Astley, Sir John (c.1569-1640), kt. Eldest son of John Astley (d. 1596) and his second wife Margaret Lenton (alias Grey), illegitimate daughter of Lord Thomas Grey, born about 1569. Educated at Court and Grays Inn (admitted 1598). From an early age he was at Court in the service of Queen Elizabeth and he was a Gentleman Pensioner before 1598 and to at least 1612. He remained in favour under James I and was knighted, 11 May 1603. MP for Oxford, 1614; Deputy Master of the Revels, 1622; Master of the Revels, 1623-40, although he leased the office to Sir Henry Herbert from 1623; Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, 1625-40; Commissioner for Sewers (Gravesend to Penshurst), Kent, 1622-28. Astley was hauled before the High Commission in 1634 on a trumped-up charge of incest with his wife’s niece, Anne Brydges, but was eventually acquitted. He married, 18 September 1609, Catherine (d. 1648), daughter of Anthony Brydges of Sudeley Castle (Glos) and had issue:
(1) John Astley (b. 1613); died in the lifetime of his father;
(2) Francis Astley (b. 1618), baptised at Maidstone, 6 November 1618; died in the lifetime of his father;
(3) A son; died in the lifetime of his father;
(4) A daughter; died in the lifetime of her father.
He inherited the Maidstone Palace estate from his father and remodelled the house soon after inheriting it. At his death, his children having all predeceased him, the estate was left to his kinsman, Sir Jacob Astley, later 1st Baron Astley of Reading.
He died 26 January 1639/40 and was buried at Maidstone, where he is commemorated by a fine monument; his will was proved 10 February 1639/40. His widow was buried at Maidstone, 11 February 1647/8.



Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading
Image: ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
Astley, Sir Jacob (1579-1653), 1st Baron Astley of Reading. Second surviving son of Isaac Astley (c.1540-98) and his wife Mary, daughter of Edward Waldegrave of Lawford (Essex), baptised at Melton Constable, 28 March 1579. In 1597 he volunteered to join the Azores expedition under the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh and he was probably among the English troops under Sir Francis Vere who fought for Prince Maurice of Nassau against the Spanish at the Battle of Nieuport in 1600, after which he seems to have been given command of a company in the Anglo-Dutch Brigade. In 1621 he joined the court of the exiled elector palatine in The Hague, and he is said to have given military instruction to the elector's young son, Prince Rupert, at this time. He was knighted during a royal progress in the east midlands, 17 July 1624. After further military experience with protestant forces in Germany in the late 1620s and early 1630s, his experience secured him appointment as Governor of Plymouth Fort and Serjeant Major General of the field, in command of infantry forces in the midlands and north, 1638. Asked to make a military survey of the region he painted a bleak picture of the war readiness of these counties, and drew up plans for the better fortification of key towns such as Hull and Newcastle, working closely with William Legge. He was consulted on technical matters by the council of war that took charge of the military response to the Scots, and successfully negotiated with the Dutch in 1638–9 for the provision of weapons for the English army. By the end of 1639 he was a full member of the king's council of war. In 1640, for the Second Bishops War, he was reappointed Serjeant Major General and may also have been made Governor of Newcastle. He had command of troops drawn from the southern trained bands who were ill-disciplined and prone to mutiny, but he kept the army together until it was disbanded, and escaped any blame for the fall of Newcastle to the Scots. In 1642, at the outbreak of the First Civil War, he chose the Royalist side and was again appointed Serjeant Major General, with responsibility for fashioning the untrained recruits and volunteer officers into an effective military force. At the first major battle, at Edgehill, he led 10,000 troops, and his simple prayer before the battle has become famous: ‘O Lord! thou knowest how busy I must be this day; if I forget thee, do not thou forget me … March on, boys!’ His troops behaved with courage but were ill-supported by Prince Rupert's cavalry and badly mauled, and Astley himself was wounded. In November 1642 the King established his headquarters at Oxford and made Astley Governor there until the following April when he was replaced to allow him once more to lead the army in the field. In October 1643 he was made Governor of Reading until the town was abandoned in May 1644, after which he pursued the Earl of Essex's army into Cornwall, where he trapped them and forced their surrender at Lostwithiel. He was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Astley of Reading, 4 November 1644. In 1645 he was commander of the Royalist infantry at the decisive Battle of Naseby, where his troops were forced to surrender; he escaped and in December was given command of the four counties on the Welsh border, where after restoring order he was able to gather a force of some 3000 men and march them to the King's aid at Oxford, but en route he was met and defeated on 21 March 1646 by a stronger parliamentarian army, and taken prisoner. He is reputed to have submitted to his captors with the rather prophetic words ‘You have now done your work and may go play, unless you will fall out amongst yourselves’.  He was imprisoned at Warwick Castle until after the capture of Oxford, and his lands were sequestrated in 1647 and granted to John Stephens of Lypiatt (Glos), from whom he was obliged to buy them back; he was then pardoned and discharged in March 1648. He took no part in the Second Civil War, but in May 1651 he was arrested and briefly imprisoned before the Battle of Worcester, having again to buy his freedom. While living in the Low Countries, he married , before 1619, Agnes, daughter of Henry Impel of Bloumerckem (Holland), and had issue (his four surviving children being naturalised in 1628):
(1) Elizabeth Astley (d. 1684); married 1st, her cousin, Edward Astley (1604-53/4) of Hindolveston (Norfolk) and later of Melton Constable [for whom see above, under Astley family of Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval], and had issue four sons and three daughters; married 2nd, Henry Clifton (d. 1670) of Toftrees (Norfk); died 22 January 1683/4 and was buried at Melton Constable;
(2) Sir Isaac Astley (d. 1662), 2nd Baron Astley of Reading (q.v.);
(3) Thomas Astley (fl. 1628); naturalised by act of Parliament, 1628; died without issue and probably young;
(4) Henry Astley (fl. 1628); naturalised by act of Parliament, 1628; died without issue and probably young;
(5) Lt-Col. Sir Bernard Astley (d. 1645), born abroad before 1620; naturalised by act of Parliament, 1628; Captain of Plymouth Fort under his father, 1638 and a Major in his father's regiment of foot during the Bishops' War with Scotland, 1640; Lt-Col. of Marquess of Hertford's regiment of foot, 1643 and served under General Hopton; served with his father again in 1644 and was knighted at Burford (Oxon), 18 June 1644; mortally wounded during the siege of Bristol and died there unmarried and without issue, 4 September 1645;
(6) Edward Astley; died without issue, probably before 1628 as he was not included in the naturalisation act for his brothers in 1628.
He acquired property at Maidstone (Kent).
He died 27 February 1651/2 and was buried at Maidstone, where he is commemorated by a monument erected by John and Henry Stone. His widow survived him but perhaps returned to her relations in the Netherlands as no burial or will has been found for her.

Astley, Sir Isaac (d. 1662), 2nd Baron Astley of Reading. Eldest son of Sir Jacob Astley (1579-1653), 1st Baron Astley of Reading, and his wife Agnes, daughter of Henry Impel van Bloumerckem (Holland), born abroad before 1620. He was naturalised by an act of Parliament in 1628 and knighted at Oxford, 23 February 1642/3. He married, 27 December 1650 at St Giles Cripplegate, London, Anne, daughter of Sir Francis Stydolfe, kt., and had issue including:
(1) Jacob Astley (1651-89), 3rd Baron Astley of Reading (q.v.);
(2) Francis Astley (b. c.1654-79?); born abroad and naturalised by act of parliament, 1660, when he was 'aged about 6 years'; died without issue, and was probably the 'Francis Ashley' buried at Maidstone, 5 September 1679.
He inherited his father's estate at Maidstone (Kent) in 1651/2.
He was buried at Maidstone, 3 September 1662. His widow died 6 July and was buried at Mickleham (Surrey), 9 July 1674; administration of her goods was granted 21 November 1674.

Astley, Jacob (1651-89), 3rd Baron Astley of Reading. Elder son of Sir Isaac Astley (d. 1662), 2nd Baron Astley of Reading, and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Francis Stydolfe, baptised at Allington (Kent), 13 January 1651/2. Educated at St. John's College, Cambridge (admitted 1668/9). He married, 23 March 1676 at Holy Trinity Minories, London, his cousin, Frances (d. 1692), daughter and co-heir of Sir Richard Stydolfe, 1st bt. of Norbury (Surrey), and had issue:
(1) Hon. Jacob Astley (b. & d. 1679), baptised 7 March 1679; died in infancy and was buried at Maidstone, 28 March 1679;
(2) Hon. Jacob Astley (1680-81), baptised at Maidstone, 23 September 1680; died in infancy and was buried, 20 May 1681;
(3) Hon. Frances Astley (b. 1681), baptised at Maidstone, 6 August 1681; probably died in the lifetime of her father.
He inherited his father's estate at Maidstone (Kent) in 1662. At his death his entailed estates passed to his kinsman, Sir Jacob Astley (1640-1729), 1st bt. of Melton Constable.
He died in London and was buried at Maidstone, 26 March 1689; administration of his goods was granted 8 May 1689. The peerage became extinct on his death. His widow died 11 July and was buried at Maidstone, 21 July 1692; her will was proved 18 July 1692.


Sources


Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 2003, pp. 1816-20; J.B. Burke, Extinct and dormant baronetcies, 2nd edn., 1841, pp. 22-23; C. Parkin, An essay towards a topographical history of the county of Norfolk, 1808, pp. 423-5; J. Harris (ed), 'The Prideaux collection of topographical drawings', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 7, 1964, pp. 31, 76; T. Faulkner & A. Greg, John Dobson: Newcastle architect, 1787-1865, 1987, pp. 98, 108; J. Grundy, G. McCombie, P. Ryder, H. Welfare and Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Northumberland, 1992, pp. 561-4; J. Cornforth, 'A building baronet- II', Country Life, 10 February 1994; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, 1997, pp. 32-33; Sir N. Pevsner & B. Wilson, The buildings of England: Norfolk -Norwich and North-East, 1997, pp. 610-15; J. Musson, 'Seaton Delaval Hall', Country Life, 6 November 2003; J. Goodall, 'A local triumph: Seaton Delaval', Country Life, 7 April 2010; NT guidebook to Seaton Delaval, 2011; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading; obituaries of 22nd Baron Hastings in The Guardian and Daily Telegraph.


Location of archives


Astley of Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval, baronets and Barons Hastings: deeds, manorial, estate and family papers, c.1231-20th cent. [Norfolk Record Office]; deeds and estate papers relating to Northumberland estates, 17th cent-1948 [Northumberland Archives 2133, 2158, 9796]. Earlier records relating to Seaton Delaval are among the papers of the Delaval family, also held at Northumberland Archives.


Coat of arms


Astley of Melton Constable and Seaton Delaval, baronets and later Barons HastingsQuarterly, 1st, azure a cinquefoil pierced ermine within a bordure engrailed or; 2nd, argent, a lion rampant gules, ducally crowned or; 3rd, gules two lions passant argent; 4th, or a maunch gules. The quarters represent successively the Astley, Constable, LeStrange and Hastings families.
Astley of Maidstone, Barons Astley of Reading: Azure, a cinquefoil ermine, within a bordure engrailed or.


Can you help?


Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.

  • Can you throw any further light on the early genealogy of this family, and particularly provide any further information about the children of Thomas Astley (1469-1543) and their careers? Any missing dates or supplementary information will be gratefully received.
  • Can anyone supply a portrait or photograph of the 17th Baron Hastings, or a better photograph of the 18th or 19th Barons?



Revision and acknowledgements


This post was first published 18 June 2016