Thursday, 6 July 2017

(301) Baber of Chew Court and Regilbury Court

Baber of Chew and Regilbury
The Baber family were settled at Chew Stoke (Somerset) by the early 16th century, and John Baber (d. 1527) and his son John Baber (d. 1559) may have been tenants of the Regilbury estate at Nempnett Thrubwell (Somerset) under Flaxley Abbey and their successors. The genealogy below begins with Edward Baber (1531-78), a younger son of John (d. 1559), who was bred to the law and advanced quickly in his profession, becoming recorder of Bath by 1571 and one of the Serjeants at Law in the year before his early death. He also married well, his wife being a younger daughter of Sir Thomas Leigh (1504-71), kt., who as Lord Mayor of London led the coronation procession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1559, and who established his family among the greater landed gentry through his purchase of the Stoneleigh Abbey estate in Warwickshire. By 1566, the portion which his wife brought him and his fees as a lawyer allowed Edward Baber to buy property in the area of Somerset where his family was already established. His major purchases were the freehold of the Regilbury Court estate, where his family may already have been tenants, and a moiety of the manor of Chew Magna. He also leased Aldwick Manor in Blagdon and Sutton Court and Stowey, properties which later provided homes for some of his younger sons. The Chew Magna and Regilbury estates, however, descended to Edward's eldest son, Francis Baber (1565/6-1643), who was also trained as a lawyer, although it is not clear that he ever practised as such. In 1593 he is said to have acquired Chew Court, the old manor house of the bishops of Bath & Wells at Chew Magna, from the Popham family, and it appears to have been rebuilt soon afterwards. It seems likely that Chew Court took over from Regilbury Court at this time as the centre of the estate.

When Francis Baber died in 1643 his heir was his eldest surviving son, Francis Baber (1600-69), who was an advocate in the Court of Arches and Chancellor of the Diocese of Gloucester. His legal duties kept him in London or Gloucester for most of the time, although after the suspension of diocesan governance in the Church of England in the 1640s he may have spent more time on his estates. In 1654 he is said to have moved from Chew Court to Regilbury Court, a move which may have marked a reduction in his income, as he complained in 1660 of the diminution of his estate. Francis Baber outlived his elder son, John Baber (1636-68) by a few months, so at his death his heir was his young grandson, Francis Baber (1662-78), a hopeful youth who became a student at Oxford at the exceptionally early age of 12, but who died before coming of age. His brother, Edward Baber (1664-1711) thus come into the estates. He came of age in 1684, bringing to an end a long minority of some fifteen years, during which his trustees had evidently been able to accrue some capital, for Edward quickly embarked on the rebuilding of Regilbury Court as quite a grand five bay, two-storey, gabled house, of a form typical of gentry houses of this period in the West Country. Edward married in 1687, but sadly had no children to inherit the new house, or to carry on the Baber name. He left the estates to his widow and when she died in 1714 they passed to his young kinsman, Sir Halswell Tynte (1705-30), 3rd bt., with whose descendants they remained until the 19th century. Both Chew Court and Regilbury Court fell out of gentry use as the Tyntes were more grandly accommodated at Halswell Court (Somerset), and Regilbury Court was in ruins by the early 19th century. However, Chew Court survived to be remodelled and returned to gentry occupation in the 1850s.

Chew Court, Chew Magna, Somerset

According to Collinson's History of Somerset, the manor of Chew Magna belonged to the bishops of Bath & Wells from some 500 years until in 1548 Bishop Barlow sold it to the Duke of Somerset, on whose execution and attainder in 1552 it escheated to the Crown. The manorial estate was later subdivided, and deeds surviving among the papers of the Kemeys-Tynte family, suggest a complex series of transactions, as a result of which the bishops' manor house may not have come into the hands of the Baber family until 1593. The Pophams retained the manorial rights until the 18th century, and may have built the first house on the site of the present Chew Magna Manor House as a centre for their estate. The original manor house of the bishops (now Chew Court) was largely rebuilt in about 1600, presumably for Francis Baber. As a result, the house became an L-shaped building consisting of a main north range and a shorter east wing, at the southern end of which the 14th century gatehouse of the bishop's house was retained, albeit with new windows on its upper floor.
Chew Court: the surviving 14th century gatehouse belonging to the manor house of the bishops of Bath & Wells. Image: Historic England
In 1654, Chew Court would appear to have been superseded by Regilbury Court as the residence of the later generations of Babers, and when Chew Court passed to the Tynte family in 1715, if not before, it was probably reduced to the status of a farmhouse. In the early 19th century, the tenant was Richard Mullins (fl. 1820-44), a substantial farmer who was prominent in local affairs. He may have begun the process of improving the house, but in about 1856 it was sold to John Colthurst, a Bristol surgeon turned railway promoter, who undertook an extensive remodelling in 1856-57 in the neo-Tudor style. The house has been little changed externally since. Gardens were laid out around the building in the late 19th century and have been further developed recently.

Chew Court: the house consists of the 14th century gatehouse (on the right) and an L-shaped range of c.1600, much altered in 1856-57 for John Colthurst. Image: Historic England.

Descent: Bishops of Bath & Wells; sold 1548 to Edward Seymour (d. 1552), 1st Duke of Somerset; escheated to Crown, 1552; granted 1565 to John Lumley (d. 1609), 1st Baron Lumley; sold 1566 to Edward Baber (1531-78) and Francis Popham (the house itself may have been acquired from Popham in 1593); to son, Francis Baber (1566-1643); to son, Francis Baber (1600-69); to grandson, Francis Baber (1662-78); to brother, Edward Baber (1664-1711); to widow, Florence Baber (d. 1715) and then to Sir Halswell Tynte (1705-30), 3rd bt; to brother, Rev. Sir John Tynte (1707-40), 4th bt; to brother, Sir Charles Kemeys Tynte (1710-85), 5th bt; to niece, Jane Hassell, wife of Col. John Johnson (later Kemeys-Tynte) (d. 1807); to son, Charles Kemeys Kemeys-Tynte (1778-1860), who let to tenants including Richard Mullins (fl. 1820-44); sold before 1856 to John Colthurst, surgeon (1811-95); to daughter, Ellen Rebecca Colthurst; sold c.1897 to T.B. Curtis; sold to Robert Saxby (d. 1910); to Maj. McNulty (fl. 1918-21); sold c.1922...; sold c.1928 to Richard Ashley Hall (1902-82)...Mr. & Mrs P. Oliphant (fl. 2011).

Regilbury Court, Nempnett Thrubwell, Somerset

Regilbury Court was a grange of Flaxley Abbey (Glos) until the dissolution of the monasteries. The site was granted in 1537 to Sir Anthony Kingston, the chief commissioner for the dissolution in Gloucestershire, whose grandson sold it in 1565. The following year it was bought by Edward Baber (d. 1578) of Chew Magna (Somerset), whose family may have been tenants here under successive owners since monastic times; already by 1575 there was a house here of sufficient consequence to be marked on Saxton's map of Somerset, though we know nothing of its appearance.

Like Baber's property at Chew, Regilbury descended to his son Francis (1566-1643) and grandson, Francis (1600-69), and the latter is said to have made his home at Regilbury in about 1654 (earlier members of the family had resided at Chew Court). A letter of 1660 records that Francis' estate was 'much diminished' since his father's time, presumably on account of fines or loss of income during the Civil War, so it seems unlikely that he found the resources for new building at Regilbury before moving in. When he died in 1669, the property passed in turn to his grandsons, Francis Baber (1662-78) and his brother, Edward Baber (1663-1711), who came of age in 1684. The long minority of Francis and Edward Baber probably provided an opportunity for his trustees to recover the fortunes of the estate, and Edward seems to have rebuilt or remodelled the Elizabethan house at Regilbury soon after coming into his inheritance.

Regilbury Court: an early 18th century view of the house

The new house was recorded in an early 18th century house portrait, which shows a late 17th century gabled double-pile house of five bays and two storeys, with a central porch. The house was typical of the sort of building the lesser gentry of Wiltshire and Somerset were erecting for themselves at this time. Sadly, Edward Baber left no children to inherit his new house, and when his widow died in 1715 it passed to his cousin, Sir Halswell Tynte (1705-30), 3rd bt.  
Regilbury Court: the ruins in 1846.
Regilbury was let to Sir William Wyndham, who lived here until his death in 1740, after which the house lapsed into decay and was turned into a farmhouse. In the early 19th century the house was in ruins, and a new farmhouse developed out of the outbuildings shown in the early 18th century view. The ruins were recorded in 1846, and by that time the extent of ruination suggests that either the stonework had been partly recycled to expand the adjoining farmhouse or that a fire may have accelerated its decay. Today there is nothing left at all except a few footings.

Descent: Crown granted 1537 to Sir Anthony Kingston, kt... sold 1565 to Edward Bernard, who sold 1566 to Edward Baber (1531-78); to son, Francis Baber (1566-1643); to son, Francis Baber (1600-69); to grandson, Francis Baber (1662-78); to brother, Edward Baber (1664-1711); to widow, Florence Baber (d. 1715) and then to Sir Halswell Tynte (1705-30), 3rd bt; to brother, Rev. Sir John Tynte (1707-40), 4th bt; to brother, Sir Charles Kemeys Tynte (1710-85), 5th bt; to niece, Jane Hassell, wife of Col. John Johnson (later Kemeys-Tynte) (d. 1807); to son, Charles Kemeys Kemeys-Tynte (1778-1860); to son, Col. Charles John Kemeys-Tynte (1800-82); to son, Charles Kemeys Kemeys-Tynte (1822-91); to son, Charles Theodore Halswell Kemeys-Tynte (1876-1934), later 8th Baron Wharton; to son, Charles John Halswell Kemeys-Tynte (1908-69), 9th Baron Wharton, who sold 1919 to John Vowles (d. 1931); to son, O.R. Vowles (fl. 1949)...Lt-Col. V.A. Wood (fl. 1963)...

Baber family of Chew Court and Regilbury Court

Baber, Edward (1531-78). Son of John Baber (d. 1559) of Chew Stoke (Somerset) and his wife, Agnes or Mary Willett, born 1531. Educated at Lincoln's Inn (admitted, 1553; called to bar, 1560; bencher, 1570; pensioner & steward, 1570; autumn reader, 1570, 1571; Governor, 1573; Treasurer, 1569-70). Barrister-at-law; Recorder of Bath by 1571; Serjeant-at-Law, 1577. JP for Somerset by 1570 and for Middlesex by 1574. He married, Catherine (d. 1601), third daughter of Sir Thomas Leigh of Stoneleigh (Warks), and had issue:
(1) Francis Baber (1565/6-1643) (q.v.);
(2) Robert Baber (1567?-1640), reputedly born 13 December 1567; inherited the manor of Aldwick in Blagdon (Somerset) from his father; married 1st, 13 December 1599 at St Mildred, Poultry, London, Cicely Smith (d. 1606) and had issue three sons and two daughters, and 2nd, 10 August 1607 at Corston (Somerset), Priscilla Holbyn (d. 1644); buried 11 May 1640 in Bath Abbey; will proved 12 June 1640;
(3) Alice Baber (b. & d. 1571), baptised 26 January 1570/1 at St James, Clerkenwell (Middx); died in infancy and was buried at St James, Clerkenwell, 7 February 1570/1;
(4) Elizabeth Baber (b. 1572), baptised 18 February 1572 at St James, Clerkenwell; married, 11 October 1589 at Chew Magna, George Tynte of Chelvey Court (Somerset) and had issue three sons;
(5) William Baber (b. 1573), baptised 10 September 1573 at St James, Clerkenwell; inherited Hillhouse, Blagdon (Somerset) from his father;
(6) Mary Baber (d. 1644), born after 1572; married 1st, Jan 1599/1600, Sir Roger Wilbraham (1553-1616), kt. of Dorfold (Cheshire), Master of Requests, and had issue three daughters; married 2nd, Sir Thomas Delves (1571-1658), 1st bt.; buried at Wybunbury (Cheshire), 6 January 1644;
(7) Edward Baber (1576-1655) of Sutton Court, Stowey, baptised at Chew Magna, 8 July 1576; citizen and draper of London; married 1st, 3 February 1611 at St Pancras (Middx), Mary, daughter of Thomas Paradine of London, merchant, and had issue; 2nd, 17 October 1616 at Enfield (Middx), Frances Harrison (née Edington) of Enfield, by whom he had issue one son and three daughters; and 3rd, after 1630, Elizabeth Strachey (née Crosse, then Jupp); died 21 April 1655;
(8) Katherine Baber (b. 1578), baptised at Chew Magna, 14 August 1578; married, 19 February 1600/1 at Chew Magna, William Snowe, and had issue.
He purchased the Regilbury Court estate (which his grandfather had leased) in 1565, and part of the former episcopal estate at Chew Magna in 1566. He also leased Sutton Court, Stowey from Bess of Hardwick, and Aldwick Manor House (Somerset); at his death the was described as of Aldwick.
He died 23 September and was buried at Chew Magna 2 October 1578, where he is commemorated by a large monument erected by his eldest son in the 17th century; his will was proved 10 February 1578/9. His widow died 10 March 1601 and was buried at Chew Magna, where she is commemorated on her husband's monument.

Baber, Francis (1565/6-1643). Eldest son of Edward Baber (1531-78) and his wife Catherine, daughter of Thomas Leigh of Stoneleigh (Warks), born 25 August 1565 or 1566. Educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1582) and Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1586). He married, 24 July 1595, Ann (c.1582-1650), daughter of William Whitmore of Balmes, Hackney (Middx), and had issue:
(1) Edward Baber (1597-1633), baptised at Chew Magna, 7 February 1596/7; educated at Westminster School, Trinity College, Oxford (matriculated 1614; BA 1616) and Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1618); his will refers to legal proceedings against his parents reflecting no credit on either party; married, 2 July 1629 at St Gregory by St Pauls, London, Elizabeth Pratt, and had issue one son and one daughter; died June 1633; will proved 20 June 1633;
(2) Elizabeth Baber (1598-1636), baptised at Chew Magna, 8 January 1597/8; married 1st, 12 August 1623 at Chew Magna, Sir Richard Hill (1557-1627), kt. of Redland (Glos), and 2nd, John Hodges; buried at Bath Abbey, 12 July 1636;
(3) William Baber (1599-1600), baptised at Chew Magna, 19 February 1598/9; died in infancy and was buried at Chew Magna, 13 April 1600;
(4) Francis Baber (1600-69) (q.v.);
(5) Ann Baber (1603-62), baptised at Chew Magna, 11 August 1603; married, 21 February 1627/8 at Chew Magna, William Blanchard (d. 1644), son of William Blanchard of St. Catherine's (Somerset), and had issue seven sons; buried at Batheaston (Somerset), 1662;
(6) Henry Baber (b. & d. 1606), baptised at Chew Magna, October 1606; died in infancy and was buried at Chew Magna, 13 November 1606;
(7) John Baber (1607-19), baptised at Chew Magna, 14 October 1607; died young and was buried at Chew Magna, 11 November 1619;
(8) Mary Baber (1610-69?), baptised at Chew Magna, 7 May 1610; married, 10 August 1631 at Wishford (Wilts), Sir Robert Hyde (1595-1665), kt., Chief Justice of Common Pleas, but had no issue; buried in Salisbury Cathedral, 2 August 1669;
(9) James Baber (1611-86), baptised at Chew Magna, 13 July 1611; merchant adventurer at Hamburg (Germany); died, apparently unmarried and without issue, about May 1686; will proved 28 May 1686;
(10) Jane Baber (1613-92), baptised at Chew Magna, 21 March 1612/3; married, 21 August 1639, Lawrence St. Loe (1604-58) of Broad Chalke (Wilts), and had issue one son and one daughter; buried at Broad Chalke, 1692; will proved 18 June 1692.
He inherited the Regilbury Court and Chew Magna estates, together with property at Wrington (Somerset) from his father in 1578 and came of age in 1587. He apparently acquired Chew Court from the Popham family in 1593 and rebuilt it soon afterwards. He continued to expand the estate through the purchase of small parcels of land until the 1620s.
He died 9 September and was buried at Chew Magna, 10 September 1643. His widow died 30 December 1650 and was buried in Bath Abbey, 7 January 1650/1; her will was proved 23 April 1651.

Baber, Francis (1600-69). Eldest surviving son of Francis Baber (1566-1643) and his wife Ann, daughter of William Whitmore of Balmes, Hackney (Middx), baptised at Chew Magna, 5 July 1600. Educated at Trinity College, Oxford (matriculated 1616; BA 1620; MA 1622; BCL 1624; DCL 1628); advocate in the Court of Arches; Chancellor of the Diocese of Gloucester, 1629-69; Commissioner of Militia for Somerset, 1660 and for levying a royal aid, 1664-65. He married, 9 April 1634 at South Mimms (Middx), Elizabeth (1610-73), daughter of John Adderley, and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Baber (d. 1641); died young and was buried at Gloucester Cathedral, 19 March 1641;
(2) twin, John Baber (1636-68) (q.v.);
(3) twin, Ann Baber (1636-39), baptised at Chew Magna, 8 May 1636; died young and was buried in Gloucester Cathedral, 1639;
(4) Francis Baber (1637-40); died young and was buried in Gloucester Cathedral, 3 September 1640;
(5) James Baber (d. c.1672); a clerk in the Cursitor's Office, Chancery Lane; died unmarried; will proved 12 April 1672;
(6) Mary Baber (d. 1656); buried at Nempnett Thrubwell, 12 May 1656.
He inherited the Chew Court and Regilbury Court estates from his father in 1643 and moved his residence from the former to the latter in about 1654.
He died 17 June 1669 and was buried on the south side of the choir of Gloucester Cathedral. His widow was buried at Gloucester Cathedral, 9 January 1672/3; her will was proved 23 June 1674.

Baber, John (1636-68). Eldest son of Francis Baber (1600-69) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Adderley, baptised at Chew Magna, 8 May 1636. Educated at Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1657). He married, 18 April 1661 at Chelvey (Somerset), Anne (1642-67), daughter of John Tynte of Chelvey Court, and had issue:
(1) Francis Baber (1662-78), born 22 May and baptised at Chelvey, 29 May 1662; educated at Balliol College, Oxford (matriculated 1674) and Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1678); inherited the Chew Court and Regilbury Court estates from his grandfather in 1669 but died before coming of age, about 3 September 1678; will proved 2 November 1678; [not to be confused with another Francis Baber (1657-78), son of John Baber of London, who was educated at Christ Church, Oxford and Lincoln's Inn];
(2) Edward Baber (1664-1711) (q.v.).
He died in the lifetime of his father, and was buried 5 January 1667/8. His wife was buried at Chew Magna, 12 July 1667.

Baber, Edward (1664-1711). Younger son of John Baber (1636-68) and his wife Anne or Barbara Tynte, baptised 20 January 1663/4. Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1680) and Middle Temple (admitted 1682). He is said to have 'dwelt [at Regilbury] in great splendour'. He married, 24 June 1687 at St Vedast, Foster Lane, London, Florence (d. 1715), daughter of Roger Bourne of Gothelney Hall, Charlinch (Somerset), but had no issue.
He inherited the Chew Court and Regilbury Court estates from his elder brother in 1678 and came of age in 1684. He rebuilt or remodelled Regilbury Court soon after inheriting. At his death he left his estates to his widow, who bequeathed them to his kinsman, Sir Halswell Tynte (1705-30), 3rd bt. and her own property to Thomas Bourne of Sandford.
He was buried at Chew Magna, 10 April 1711; his will was proved 5 May 1711. His widow was buried at Chew Magna, 13 September 1714; her will was proved 7 September 1715.


Rev. J. Collinson, The history and antiquities of the county of Somerset, 1791, vol. 2 (mispaginated), s.v. Chew Magna, Nemnet; J. Rutter, Delineations of the north-west division of the county of Somerset, 1829, pp. 200-05; F.A. Wood, Collections for a parochial history of Chew Magna, 1903, passim, but especially pp. 140-54; A. Foyle & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Somerset - North and Bristol, 2011, pp. 446-47;

Location of archives

No substantial archive is known to survive, but many deeds and manorial records are among the papers of the successor Kemeys-Tynte family of Halswell House at Somerset Heritage Centre.

Coat of arms

Argent, on a fess gules, three hawks' heads erased of the first.

Can you help?

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  • Can anyone provide fuller information about the 20th century ownership of Chew Court or Regilbury Court?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 6 July 2017.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

(266) Aislabie of Studley Royal

Aislabie of Studley Royal
George Aislabie (1618-75) was the eldest son of a farming family from Osgodby in the East Riding of Yorkshire, who was apprenticed to William Turbutt, the registrar of the York Consistory Court, before the Civil War. He had qualified as a notary by 1644, when he was appointed as Turbutt's deputy, but with the church courts suspended between 1641 and 1660, he remained in Turbutt's household as his confidential clerk. After Turbutt died in 1648 he supported his widow in defending legal actions against her husband's estate, and it seems likely that they became close, as he continued to live with Mrs Turbutt until her death in 1662, and was her principal legatee. With the reopening of the church courts in 1660, he was soon appointed as Registrar, and he also became Receiver-General to the Archbishop of York. Both posts offered scope for lucrative fees and perquisites, and together with the legacies he received from the Turbutts, enabled him to buy the Treasurer's House in York, which had been largely rebuilt shortly before the Civil War by Thomas Young. 

The Treasurer's House, York: still largely the 17th century house occupied by George Aislabie, although remodelled after John Aislabie sold it in 1698. Image: Trip Advisor.

In 1663, George received a grant of arms and married Mary Mallorie, the daughter of a somewhat impoverished local Royalist, Sir John Mallorie of Studley Royal. Four years later, her brother died unexpectedly, leaving Mary and her sisters Jane and Elizabeth as co-heirs to the estate. After fighting off claims from other branches of the Mallorie family, George paid off the mortgage on the estate and apparently bought out the interests of his sisters-in-law to establish his position as lord of the manor. In the early 1670s he commenced landscaping works at Studley Royal prior to building a new house, but the house itself was never begun, for George was killed in a duel in January 1675 by John Jennings. The circumstances leading to the duel were complex and have been much debated. The accepted story at the time was that Jennings, having escorted Jane Mallorie (who was staying with her brother-in-law at the Treasurer's House) to a masque hosted by the Duke of Buckingham and returned later than expected, found the doors of the Treasurer's House locked, requiring Jane to stay the night at the house of his brother. The following morning Jennings escorted her home, where strong words were exchanged, and when Jennings called Aislabie 'the scum of the country', Aislabie issued a challenge. The real reason may be that it was rumoured in York that Jennings was acting as a procurer for the Duke of Buckingham in taking Jane to the masque in the first place. And Jennings himself claimed, in a pamphlet written twenty years later, that Jane had discovered that George had coerced her sister Elizabeth into parting with her share of the Studley estate without securing her expected marriage portion in exchange, and that the challenge was George's attempt to silence him. The full truth cannot now be established.

With George dead, his property descended to his eldest son, Mallory Aislabie (1667-85), who died while a student at Oxford (one account says that he committed suicide). He was succeeded by his brother George Aislabie (1669-93), who came of age in 1690. There is some evidence that he showed alarmingly spendthrift tendencies, but he died in July 1693, leaving as his heir John Aislabie (1670-1742), who had recently graduated in law from Cambridge and succeeded to his father's post as Registrar of the York Consistory Court. John was a young man in a hurry to build a career. In 1694 he married Ann, the daughter of Sir William Rawlinson of Hendon House (Middx), who brought him a portion of £5,000 and property in Leicestershire. She was also the niece of Archbishop John Sharp of York, whose influence is apparent in John's election in 1695 as one of the MPs for Ripon, which was a borough controlled by the Archbishops. He sat for Ripon until 1721 except for the years 1702-05 when he represented Northallerton instead, apparently because as Mayor of Ripon at the time of the 1702 election he was ineligible to stand. John's developing political success was offset by personal tragedy, for in January 1701 his wife Ann and her infant daughter were killed in a fire at the family home in Red Lion Square, London, from which his son and heir William was only saved by being thrown from an upstairs window into the arms of the crowd below. This loss was compounded by the looting of valuables which servants had managed to rescue from the flames; newspaper reports at the time put his loss at £20,000.

As a nominee of the Archbishop, John Aislabie initially sat in Parliament with the Tories, and in 1710 he was rewarded for his support of the Tory cause at the general election with appointment as a lord of the Admiralty. However, between 1710 and 1714 he showed an increasing tendency to vote with the opposition, and soon after the accession of King George I in 1714, he switched his allegiance to support the newly ascendant Whigs, being rewarded by promotion to Treasurer of the Navy later that year.  He was seen as a man of ‘good understanding, no ill-speaker in Parliament, and very capable of business’, and his career flourished. In 1718 he was appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer and became Lord Sunderland’s right-hand man in the management of the South Sea Company and its dealings in Government debt. When the South Sea Bubble burst in 1720, however, his involvement in the affair put an end to the rumours that he was to receive a peerage, and led to his resignation from office in January 1721, his expulsion from the Commons and his temporary incarceration in the Tower in March. Subsequently, he was debarred from standing for Parliament again, and after much Parliamentary wrangling was fined some £45,000 (about £6.5m today), representing the sum by which he was believed to have profited corruptly since 1718. Although the fine was substantial, it was far from crippling to a man whose total assets were estimated at £160,000 and who had probably been canny enough to invest further sums in the names of his children or through trustees, and free from the claims of parliamentary and ministerial office on his time, he threw himself into landscape gardening at Studley Royal.

Hall Barn (Bucks): part of the landscaping carried out for John and Judith Aislabie in the 1710s, with a canal and allée leading to a temple. Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.

Landscaping seems to have been a developing passion in John's life during his years in power. As one of the commissioners for the building of new churches in London, he was in regular contact with many of the leading figures in architecture and landscape design, including Vanbrugh, Hawksmoor, and John James. In 1712, he was a subscriber to John James' Theory and Practice of Gardening, and from 1713, when he married Judith Waller, the widow of Dr. Stephen Waller of Hall Barn (Bucks), he and his wife threw themselves into continuing the landscaping of the grounds there during the minority of the son and heir to the estate. In 1718 he commenced landscaping works at Studley Royal, building a tower on How Hill to the south-west as an eyecatcher, and digging out a canal and cascade in what became the centre of the designed landscape. After his expulsion from the office, his assets were frozen until his fine was agreed and paid in May 1723, but once that was out of the way work began again, at a faster pace than before. The acquisition of additional land in 1724 and 1731 allowed the development of the gardens on an expanded scale and in new directions. It would appear that John himself was the directing genius of the emerging scheme, but he developed a team of key workmen at Studley to carry out his ideas, among whom the mason Robert Doe appears to have provided critical continuity, as he was working at Studley until 1769. Architectural input came initially from Colen Campbell (1676-1729) (whose career Aislabie had helped to advance while in office), and his assistant, Roger Morris (1695-1749). Campbell was certainly responsible for building Waverley Abbey House c.1725 (where Robert Doe was involved in construction); and Campbell and Morris probably also designed the town house in Grosvenor Square which was built for John in 1727-29. 

12 Grosvenor Square, London: the house built for John Aislabie in 1727-29, probably to designs by Colen Campbell and Roger Morris, and tragically demolished in 1961. Photographed by Bedford Lemere, 1927. Image: Historic England.

Morris designed the new stable block erected at Studley Royal in 1728-32, with advice given by Campbell from his death-bed, and the designs for the Cascade and Fishing Pavilions are also in Morris' hand. After John's son William married Lady Elizabeth Cecil in 1724, Aislabie had a closer relationship with Lord Burlington and his circle, and William Kent (1685-1748) may have played a role in the design of some later features in the gardens, including the Octagon Tower and the Mackershaw Lodges in the 1730s, as these are much in his style. The Temple of Piety was based on a drawing by Palladio in Lord Burlington's collection, and was perhaps suggested as a model by Burlington himself.

When John was excluded from Parliament in 1721, his seat at Ripon was taken over by his only son, William Aislabie (c.1700-81), and after John died in 1742, William succeeded his father in other ways as well, as Registrar of the York Consistory Court, as a Deputy Lieutenant of the West Riding, and most importantly as a landscape designer. William was also much more interested in the houses that accompanied his gardens than his father had been. In 1724, John had bought the Kirkby Fleetham Hall estate as a home for his son, and William probably built a new house there around 1730. Nothing seems to have been done about landscaping the grounds, however, until after William inherited Studley Royal and gained access to the team which his father had assembled there. Work was in progress at Kirkby Fleetham from 1743-55, in parallel with work at Studley Royal, where William bought the Seven Bridges Valley in 1743 and extended the landscaping scheme to the east. From 1747-57 his main project was a comprehensive remodelling of the old house at Studley Royal, to the designs of Daniel Garrett (d. 1753), although this was never a great architectural success. In the later 1750s and early 1760s, work at Studley Royal was largely confined to improving some of the garden temples and simplifying some of the earlier garden works, and the main focus of attention was on ornamenting Hackfall Woods, a dramatic ravine some eight miles north of Studley, which became a destination for picturesque drives. From 1765, when William succeeded in acquiring the Fountains Hall estate and the ruins of Fountains Abbey, the attention was moved back to Studley Royal, and focused on integrating the newly acquired grounds into the designed landscape. In the 1770s, he employed Robert Adam to design new interiors for 12 Grosvenor Square and also to remodel the house he leased near London, Hendon Place.

William died in 1781 without surviving male issue, and his property was divided between his two daughters. The elder, Elizabeth Allanson (1726-1808), who was already a widow and had no children, received Studley Royal for her lifetime but rarely went there and spent most of her time at her late husband's house in Twickenham (Middx). The younger daughter, Anna Sophia (1727-1802), and her husband William Lawrence (c.1723-98), received Kirkby Fleetham, and were probably responsible for enlarging the house in the 1780s; their architect may have been William Lindley of Doncaster. Anna Sophia died in 1802 and her sister Elizabeth in 1808, and both of their estates descended to Anna Sophia's daughter, Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence (1761-1845), who was a conscientious custodian of the estates. When she died in 1845, the estates were again divided - in accordance with the terms of William Aislabie's will, written more than sixty years earlier - between distant cousins. Studley Royal passed to Thomas Philip Robinson, 3rd Baron Grantham and later 2nd Earl de Grey, and Hackfall passed to his brother, the Earl of Ripon; an account of their careers will be given in a future post on the Robinson family. Kirkby Fleetham passed to the Wallers, and the family's Leicestershire property to Admiral Sir Cornwallis Ricketts, whose connection to the family is obscure.

Studley Royal House, Yorkshire (West Riding)

Studley Royal remains today, as it has been since the 18th century, one of the showplaces of Yorkshire. The focus of attention has always been the extensive landscaping works carried out by John Aislabie and his son William between 1718 and 1777, rather than the house, which stood a little detached from the gardens in open parkland to the north. In the 18th century, visitors to the gardens were shown only the central part of the grounds and not the house or the further reaches of the designed landscape, and the house is thus surprisingly poorly recorded by comparison with the gardens. The evidence for the complex development of the site has however recently been brought together in a beautifully illustrated book by Mark Newman, The Wonder of the North (2015), which is essential reading for anyone wishing to gain a detailed understanding of the site.

Studley Royal House: the Great Gate stands on an axis aligned on Ripon Minster in one direction and the proposed site of a new house in the other; a gate existed in this position by 1676, but the present structure may have been rebuilt in the 1720s.
Image: Gordon Hatton. Some rights reserved.

There was a manor house called Studley Hall with a park occupying the eastern portion of the estate by the early 17th century. George Aislabie, who came into possession of the estate in 1667, planned to build a new mansion at the centre of an enlarged park, and by 1676 he had walled the park and built a gate on alignment between the intended site of the new house and Ripon Minster. The Studley Great Gate which stands in this position today could indeed date from the 1670s, but in its pure Jonesian classicism it is perhaps more likely to have been rebuilt by Colen Campbell or Roger Morris as part of their work on the estate in the 1720s. Map evidence suggests George Aislabie also planted an avenue leading from this gate to the site proposed for a new house, and a cross-avenue at right-angles to this alignment, although these features could date from the brief period between 1690 and 1693 when his son George was in control at Studley Royal.

Detail of a drawing of c.1740 showing the old house at Studley Royal and the new stables built in 1728-32. 

In 1693 Studley Royal passed to John Aislabie (1670-1742), who did not turn his attention to any significant works on the estate until 1716, when a fire at Studley Hall - believed to have been started deliberately by a servant - did significant but not catastrophic damage to the old house there. It was probably always John's long-term intention to build a replacement for the old house, but this did not happen in his lifetime, and the old house was repaired and adapted at intervals. The chapel was renovated in 1723-24, with carving by Daniel Harvey, who also worked at Castle Howard. In 1728 the decorative schemes of the staircase and three other rooms were replaced by the plasterer, William Perritt, and floors and windows were replaced in 1732. The 'south tower' of the house was rebuilt in 1733, with a chimneypiece carved by Richard Fisher. A major rebuilding of the library was under discussion when John died in 1742.

It was also in 1716 that John made the first of a series of land purchases which expanded the estate and opened up the potential of the valley of the River Skell for landscape gardening; the other key acquisitions were in 1724 (Round Hill) and 1731 (Mackershaw, comprising the east side of the Skell valley and the plateau above it). 

Studley Royal House: the park marked on an Ordnance Survey map of 1900, and showing the relationship between the house (at the top), the church, Fountains Abbey, and the valley of the River Skell where the main gardens were created.

In 1718 John became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and although one would have thought he had less time than ever for building and gardening, he probably had more resources because of his dealings in South Sea Company stock. At all events, work then began in earnest on landscaping at Studley Royal. Aislabie's dismissal and exclusion from public office in 1720, after the South Sea Bubble burst, caused a hiatus in developments until about 1723, but work then resumed at an even greater pace, driven by an owner whose resources were scarcely impaired by his heavy fines and who could devote his whole time and attention to his improvements. The first phase of work, between 1718 and 1720, was concerned with the building of the main canal in the valley of the River Skell, and the construction of a tower on How Hill, south-west of the estate, as an eyecatcher aligned with the canal. The style of the tower may show some awareness of Vanbrugh's gateways and estate buildings at Castle Howard. 

Studley Royal House: painting of the lake and the gardens beyond, c.1750, by Balthasar Nebot. Image: © National Trust Images. 
Studley Royal House: a contemporary view of the lake, cascade and fishing lodges shows how little has changed in 250 years.
Image: © National Trust/Ian Gilkinson

Dramatic flood damage to the early waterworks in the valley in 1725 required significant reconstruction, and provided an opportunity to incorporate new thinking into the garden design. It is apparent that Aislabie's ideas evolved with contemporary fashion, and once the waterworks and associated garden earthworks had been reconstructed in a more resilient form than before in 1726-29, a series of garden buildings were added to the scheme. For the waterworks, Aislabie may have been indebted to his protégé William Benson for advice, but for these architectural works he turned first to Colen Campbell (of whom he was also an early patron) and to Campbell's assistant, Roger Morris, to whom designs for the cascades (1726) and new stables (1728) are attributed. Morris or Aislabie's increasingly important clerk of works, Robert Doe may also have designed the Banqueting House (c.1730-32), and the Rustic Bridge which was evidently built at much the same time.

Studley Royal House: Banqueting House (c.1730-32, altered later). Image: Madmedea. Some rights reserved.

After the purchase of the Mackershaw estate in 1731, attention shifted to developing the east side of the Skell valley. New walks were laid out here, contouring round the hillside at several levels, and linked to one another by steeper paths. The grotto was under construction in 1732, and the Mackershaw Lodges, Octagon Tower and Temple of Hercules were all built in the early 1730s. In these buildings, the influence of Lord Burlington's circle is very apparent. The Temple of Piety (known originally as the Temple of Hercules) is indeed a realisation of a reconstruction drawing by Palladio of the Temple of Piety in Rome which was in Burlington's possession at the time, and which differed from published views of this building, so we can be confident that in this instance his influence was direct. The design of the Gothick Octagon Tower and the Mackershaw lodges looks suspiciously like the work of William Kent, although there is no documentary evidence of his direct involvement.

Studley Royal House: the Temple of Piety with the statue of Galen. Image: © National Trust/Andrew Butler.

Studley Royal House: the Octagonal Tower built in the 1730s.
Image: © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey
When John Aislabie died in 1742 his heir was his son, William (c.1700-81), who it seems likely that he learned his landscaping skills at his father's side. The first project of the new era was the construction of a funerary pyramid, doubtless to the memory of John Aislabie, which was built in 1742-43. This is a copy of the pyramid erected by Vanbrugh at Stowe in 1726 and was constructed by Robert Doe. Unfortunately it does not survive, and it is not even clear where in the gardens it stood.

In 1743, William turned his eyes eastward and brought a further 40 acres or so of the Skell valley - now known as the Seven Bridges valley - fully into the designed landscape. By 1744 he was planning a Chinese building to decorate this area, and the first scheme seems to have been for a pagoda, although by the time the building was constructed in 1745-46 it was a simpler circular 'ting' with a concave roof decorated with dragons and a bench seat running between the columns; only the base survives today. It stood at the north-west corner of an area of decorative woodland on the steep northern side of the Skell valley, which was threaded with a series of zigzagging paths. The 'ting' marked one end of an open allée which connected it to another and unknown building or feature, which is marked on estate maps but not recorded in views of the estate. Two more lost features from the gardens were a large (probably wooden) obelisk at the western end of the main avenue, replaced by the present smaller stone one in 1815; and the Belvedere, which stood near the summit of Gillet Hill on the east side of the park, with views west to Studley Hall and east towards Ripon. 

Studley Royal House: Belvedere, drawn by J.C. Buckler, c.1816-18. Image: British Library.

This was a delightful combination of a square Palladian gazebo with an octagonal Gothick lantern rising from the roof and crowned by a slender spire. The date of the Belvedere is uncertain, but it may have been designed in the 1740s or 1750s, and is tentatively attributed to Daniel Garrett, another Burlington protégé, who was perhaps first brought to Studley to remodel Studley Hall soon after William Aislabie's second marriage in 1745. If it was designed by Daniel Garrett he put into it all the whimsy and 'fribble' that is so conspicuously lacking from his designs for the house. 

Garrett was paid for his designs for Studley Hall at the end of 1746, and they were carried out in 1747-57. He is known for both conventional Palladian designs and for Kentian Gothick buildings, but the house as first built was an uncharacteristic mixture of the two, with a curiously inept Gothick centrepiece to the south front, which was replaced by a more conventional classical treatment between 1758 and 1765; since Garrett himself died in 1753, this must have been the work of another architect, or perhaps of the ubiquitous Robert Doe. 

Studley Royal House: painting of the house by an unknown artist, datable to 1752-62, and showing the original configuration of the south front.

Studley Royal House: pencil sketch of the revised south front treatment by J,C, Buckler, 1816. Image: British Library.
Internally, the house was more successful, with rich plasterwork by Giuseppe Cortese. William's enthusiasm for the Chinese taste was reflected in 'two friezes in the Chinese taste', one perhaps in the Chinese bedroom. A new chapel was also created within the west range of the stable block in 1754-56, and again decorated by Cortese. Near the house a private garden was created, which had a heated Garden House by 1753 and an aviary - later referred to as a menagerie - constructed in 1764 and maintained into the 19th century. The aviary was equipped with charming bird roosts, each consisting of a vertical pole with perches projecting from it at intervals and supporting a Chinoiserie canopy to keep the birds dry.

After work on the house was completed, the pace of development at Studley slackened. Changes were made to some of the garden buildings in the 1750s and 1760s, chiefly to their interiors, which were redecorated with new stuccowork by Cortese. Some of the multiplicity of paths through the garden were also abandoned, removing some of the formal structure that John Aislabie had imparted to the garden in the interest of a more fashionably naturalistic style. There were also improvements to the waterworks in the Seven Bridges valley in the late 1750s, perhaps including the building of a little rustic tower ('the Roman Monument'), modelled on the tomb of the Horatii, although this may have been constructed earlier.

Studley Royal House: the 'Surprise View' of Fountains Abbey made possible by the extension of the designed landscape to include the abbey ruins following a land purchase in 1765. Image: © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

In 1767 William finally managed to purchase from the Messenger family the Fountains Hall estate south-east of Studley Royal, including the ruins of the medieval Fountains Abbey. This acquisition, with the potential for making the abbey ruins a picturesque object in the landscape, had been ardently desired by William for many years. The years between 1768 and 1773 were largely devoted to drawing the Fountains estate, and some additional lands which were bought or leased shortly afterwards, into the designed landscape. This involved significant changes to the southern end of the existing gardens, where the kidney-shaped reservoir was enlarged (partly as a response to further flooding in 1768) and new walks and garden buildings were laid out on the slopes to either side of it, including the Temple of Fame, an eight-columned open rotunda of wood and plaster built c.1770, and a tent which replaced an earlier stone pavilion on Tent Hill. These works drew the visitor round the gardens to the point where the famous 'Surprise View' of the ruins of Fountains Abbey could be obtained. The course of the River Skell between the abbey and the viewpoint was widened and straightened into an artfully sinuous series of curves that almost appear to be a single sheet of water, greatly enhancing the picturesque effect. The abbey ruins themselves were tidied up to make them safe and satisfactorily picturesque in a long campaign of work between 1768 and 1773. To the dismay of later antiquarians, this included some selective demolition and the clearing of fallen rubble masonry as well as consolidation, repair and rebuilding of what remained, in order to make explicit the architectural majesty of the abbey buildings.

Studley Royal House: the large church of St Mary was the most significant 19th century addition to the landscape. Image; English Heritage.

In the mid 19th century, the estate passed first to the 2nd Earl de Grey and then to his nephew, the 2nd Earl of Ripon, who succeeded as 3rd Earl de Grey and later became 1st Marquess of Ripon. He remodelled Studley Hall in 1860-62 and seems to have been responsible for renaming it as Studley Royal House, although both names continued to be used later. Lord Ripon made some changes to the fenestration of the house and created a new entrance hall in the north range. To accommodate visiting royalty, he also created a royal suite in the centre of the south front, over the Great Hall. A little later, in 1877-78, a Roman Catholic chapel was added to the western side of the house, perhaps to the designs of John Hungerford Pollen, who was secretary to Lord Ripon at the time. More significant than any of these changes, however, was the construction of St Mary's church, built to the designs of William Burges in 1871-78 on a prominent site at the end of the main avenue in the park. It was intended as a memorial to Lady Ripon's brother, who was killed in a shoot-out between the Greek army and a band of brigands who had taken him captive, and was paid for with money raised to pay the ransom the brigands had demanded. Externally, the church is a demure if uncomfortably vertical building; inside, it is a riot of colour.

After the death of the 2nd Marquess of Ripon in 1923, his trustees sold the Studley Royal estate to a distant family connection, Commander Clare Vyner (1894-1989). During the Second World War the house and stables were occupied by Queen Ethelburga's School, which remained here until the Easter vacation of 1946. Just hours after the last lorry-load of school furniture left Studley Royal, fire broke out in the house, which was burned to a shell, and since the family lacked the means to contemplate rebuilding, the shell was promptly demolished. The stable block survived the fire and was converted into a house for the family after 1947. Fortunately most of the family's pictures and furnishings had been in store while the house was occupied by the school and could be used to furnish their new home.

In the 1950s, Commander Vyner transferred ownership of the estate to his son, Henry Vyner, a compulsive gambler whose losses forced the sale of more and more of the estate. The core was sold in 1965 to a property development company, but in 1967 sold on to the West Riding of Yorkshire County Council and opened to the public. The West Riding and their successors, North Yorkshire County Council, had limited funds for restoration as budgets tightened in the 1980s, and in 1983 the estate was sold to The National Trust, which cares for it today.

Descent: Sir John Mallorie (d. 1527), kt.; to son, Sir William Mallor
ie (c.1498-1547), kt.; to son, Christopher Mallorie (d. 1554); to brother, Sir William Mallorie (d. 1603), kt.; to son, Sir John Mallorie (c.1556-1620), kt.; to son, Sir William Mallorie (1585-1646), kt.; to son, Sir John Mallorie (1610-56), kt.; to son, William Mallorie (1647-67); to sisters, including Elizabeth, wife of George Aislabie (1618-75), who bought out the co-heirs; to son, Mallorie Aislabie (1667-85); to brother, George Aislabie (1669-93); to brother, John Aislabie (1670-1742); to son, William Aislabie (c.1700-81); to daughter, Elizabeth Aislabie (1726-1808), wife of Charles Allanson (d. 1775); to niece, Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence (1761-1845); to distant kinsman, Thomas Philip Robinson (later Weddell then De Grey) (1781-1859), 3rd Baron Grantham and later 2nd Earl de Grey; to nephew, George Frederick Samuel Robinson (1827-1900), 2nd Earl (and later 1st Marquess) of Ripon and 3rd Earl De Grey; to son, Frederick Oliver Robinson (1852-1923), 2nd Marquess of Ripon, whose trustees sold to Commander Clare Vyner (1894-1989), who transferred ownership to his son, Henry Vyner in the 1950s; sold 1965 to Broadlands Properties, who sold c.1967 to West Riding County Council; transferred 1974 to North Yorkshire County Council; sold 1983 to The National Trust.

Kirkby Fleetham Hall, Yorkshire (NR)

Kirkby Fleetham Hall: painting of the house and church in their landscape setting by Balthasar Nebot, 1750s.

Nothing seems to be known of the manor house of the Smelt family at Kirkby Fleetham, which was bought by John Aislabie in 1724 as a residence for his son, William, who was about to be married to Lady Elizabeth Cecil. The house at Kirkby Fleetham was probably rebuilt between 1724 and 1733, when Lady Elizabeth (and two of her children) died in a smallpox epidemic. A painting of the 1750s by Balthasar Nebot shows a modest five bay, one-and-a-half storey house with a hipped roof and dormers, set in a simple rectangular enclosure with a pair of square pavilions at its western corners and circular turrets in the eastern ones. Although Nebot depicts an extensive designed landscape around the house, the archival evidence suggests that this was only laid out for William Aislabie after he succeeded his father at Studley Royal in 1742 and took control of the team of craftsmen at work there. Certainly the team were put to work at Kirkby Fleetham as well as Studley Royal, erecting buildings in 1743-45 and undertaking significant tree planting in 1747-55. It has to be admitted, however, that this could be a continuation of earlier work which is obscured by loss of the separate estate records for Kirkby Fleetham before 1742. The gardens were described by Arthur Young in 1769 as follows:
"I returned to Kiplin by Kirkby, one of the seats of William Aislabie Esq. of Studley, and the grounds greatly ornamented by him. They chiefly consist of a range of high land, winding through a large valley, the edge of it planted and temples etc., built at those points which command the best views. At the bottom a stream winds in a beautiful manner and forms several cascades. The principal prospect is from a temple about the middle of the plantation, from which you look down upon the river very picturesquely, and command a very noble prospect over a fine country, beautifully variegated with woods, villages, scattered houses, inclosures etc."

Just as William was given Kirkby Fleetham as a wedding present, so he intended the estate to provide a home for his own eldest son, John Aislabie (1727-65). However, John seems to have had learning difficulties and epilepsy, and it was clear before he reached his majority that he could not be expected to manage an estate, or to marry. Accordingly, William settled the income from Kirkby Fleetham on him for life, and when John died in 1765 reassigned these revenues to his younger daughter and her husband, William Lawrence, to whom the estate was later bequeathed in his will. 

Kirkby Fleetham Hall: entrance front in the 1860s

Kirkby Fleetham Hall: garden front, 1889.
It is frequently suggested that William Aislabie remodelled the house at Kirkby Fleetham for the Lawrences between 1765 and his death in 1781, but there seems to be no evidence for this, and the style of the additions suggests strongly that the work - which consisted of adding wings with Venetian windows on the entrance front and broad semicircular bows on the garden front, was carried out for the Lawrences themselves after they came into possession in 1781. No architect is recorded for the scheme, but it is so much in the style of William Lindley (d. 1819) of Doncaster that his name may be tentatively suggested. 

Kirkby Fleetham Hall: drawing room, 1889

The interiors were decorated with simple cornices and Adam-style doorcases, and the dining room has a good neo-classical chimneypiece with painted scenes in panels. Few structural changes were made after the late 18th century, although the staircase was replaced in the 19th century. When Lt-Col. Courage died in 1967 the house was left empty for a number of years and fell into disrepair. It was bought in 1980 by a David Grant and his wife, hoteliers, who restored the house and ran it a business until 1986. It remained a hotel for some years but is now back in private ownership.

Descent: sold 1600 to Leonard Smelt (d. c.1627); to son, Matthew Smelt; to son, Leonard Smelt (d. 1690); to son, Leonard Smelt MP (d. 1740), who sold 1724 to John Aislabie (1670-1742); to son, William Aislabie (c.1700-81); to daughter, Annie Sophia (1727-1802), wife of William Lawrence (c.1723-98); to daughter, Sophia Elizabeth Lawrence (1761-1845); to distant kinsman, Henry Edmund Waller (1804-69); to son, Edmund Waller (1828-98), who sold 1889 to Edward Hubert Courage (1863-1946); to son, Lt-Col. John Hubert Courage (1891-1967); sold 1980 to David Grant, who restored the house as an hotel; sold 1986...

Hackfall, Grewelthorpe, Yorkshire (NR)

Hackfall Woods: view of the River Ure by J.M.W. Turner, c.1815. Image: © The Wallace Collection, London.

There was never a country house at Hackfall, but an account of the place is given here because William Aislabie created a designed landscape at the confluence of a steep-sided gorge on the River Ure and the Grewelthorpe Beck. The site was linked to Studley Royal, eight miles away, by private rides across the agricultural land of the estate, a further section of which (the Laver Banks) was also landscaped. William Aislabie acquired the Grewelthorpe Beck valley and the adjoining fields in 1731 as part of his steady expansion of the Studley estate. The decision to carry out landscaping here seems only to have been taken in the late 1740s, perhaps about the time that construction work on the garden features at Kirkby Fleetham ended.
Hackfall: Fisher's Hall in the late 19th century.
Work began with the building of Fisher's Hall in 1749 and continued for some eighteen years, concluding with the construction of the sham ruin and summerhouse on Mowbray Point in 1767. 
In total, there were at least eleven, mostly rather small and ephemeral, garden structures as well as numerous works to manage and display the water with which the site was so generously endowed, and the steep - in places almost vertical - banks of the Ure gorge. The buildings were laid out as incidents, viewpoints and eyecatchers along a series of paths that conducted the visitor through the estate. The formal entrance was from Mowbray Point, a Janus-like structure: as seen from the gorge below, it is a classical ruin, based perhaps on drawings of the Baths of Diocletian in Rome, or on a design by Robert Adam made in the late 1750s and thought to be associated with Kedleston Hall (Derbys). From the rear, facing across the fields to the civilisation of the Georgian world, it is a humble but complete Gothick banqueting pavilion, which formed the usual visitors' entrance to Hackfall. Here guests would arrive, and having little idea what lay before them, the double doors on the ruin side would be thrown open to reveal the dramatic prospect of the three-hundred foot drop into the gardens below, and the distant views to Rosebery Topping, forty miles away.

Hackfall: Mowbray Castle from an early 20th century postcard.

Hackfall: the Janus-faced sham ruin and banqueting house on Mowbray Point, after restoration by the Landmark Trust, 2011.

The mood of the landscape at Hackfall was very different from the calm Arcadia of Studley Royal; the exciting sublimity of the site called for a rugged, picturesque landscape, populated by rustic Gothic buildings. When I first saw Hackfall in 1982, with the buildings in ruins, the woodland abandoned and overgrown, and a microclimate approximating to that of the Amazon rain forest making the steep valley sides so slick they were negotiable only on all fours, it seemed like a garden in a horror film. Now it has been tamed and partially restored and it is once more possible to see it through eighteenth-century eyes, as a picturesque landscape with just a tingle of the thrill of the sublime about it. You can even stay in it, as the Landmark Trust have restored the building on Mowbray Point as one of their holiday lets.

Waverley Abbey House, Surrey

In 1720, John Aislabie began the purchase of the site of the demolished Cistercian Waverley Abbey at Witley (Surrey). The estate was perhaps intended as a house near London to replace Hall Barn (Bucks), where the coming of age of the Waller heir would see Aislabie's right to use the house lapse in 1721, or as a home for John's younger brother William Aislabie (1671-1725), who had spend much of his life in India. Completion of the purchase was, however, delayed until 1725 because of the seizure of Aislabie's assets after he was expelled from Parliament. As soon as he gained control of the property, he replaced a house 'which seemed to have been formed out of a portion of the monastic buildings' with a neat Palladian villa designed (no doubt several years earlier) by Colen Campbell. However, either the ending of Aislabie's parliamentary career or the death of his brother William in 1725 made the house redundant, and he probably sold the estate fairly soon after the house was finished and used the capital to fund the expansion of his property around Studley Royal.

Waverley Abbey House: the villa designed by Colen Campbell is visible in the left background of the Bucks' view of the abbey, 1737.

By 1737, when the house was depicted in the background of the Buck brothers' view of Waverley Abbey, the house belonged to Charles Child, who sold it in about 1747 to Thomas Orby Hunter MP (c.1716-69). According to Bishop Pococke, who visited in 1754, Hunter was responsible for adding the wings. Either he or a later 18th century owner must also have remodelled the centre, as its present form is very different to that shown in the Buck engraving above.

Waverley Abbey House: entrance front as built in the 18th century and remodelled c.1833, from a photograph taken while the house was used as a VAD hospital in the First World War.

The house is now a square stock brick building of two storeys above a basement, with five bays on the entrance front and three on the garden side, all articulated with giant Ionic pilasters. On the entrance front the wings consist of two-bay single-storey links to pedimented end-pavilions which are of two more widely-spaced bays. On the garden side they are five-bay units, with the central three formed into canted bays; the central window on each wing is a Venetian window under a brick arch, and set above a Diocletian window in the basement. In the attic of each wing are oval paterae and plaster panels carrying swags. 

Waverley Abbey House: entrance front in 1950. Image: Historic England.

Waverley Abbey House: garden front in 1950. Image: Historic England.

The house was much remodelled internally after a fire in 1833, and there may have been some changes to the outside then too. The big tripartite glazed centrepieces on both fronts must date from the 1830s or later, and the glazing of the Diocletian window on the entrance front also looks 19th century. An additional storey was added to one of the wings on the garden front later in the 19th century, unbalancing the composition, and the front and rear pavilions were also joined together, creating new five-bay side elevations.

The house was used as a V.A.D. hospital managed by the Anderson family during the First World War. In about 1950 it was converted into an hotel, and in 1983 it was acquired by CWR, a Christian educational charity, which now runs it as part of Waverley Abbey College.

Descent: George Coldham; to widow, Mary, who sold 1720-25 to John Aislabie (1670-1742); sold before 1737 to Charles Child (d. 1754); sold c.1747 to Thomas Orby Hunter MP (c.1716-69); to son, Charles Orby Hunter (d. 1791), who sold to Sir Robert Rich (1717-85), 5th bt.... sold to John Buncombe Poulett-Thomson (1757-1838); sold 1832 to George Nicholson; sold 1870 to Thomas Darnley Anderson (d. 1876); to son, Charles Anderson (1850-94); to brother, Rupert Darnley Anderson (1859-1944); to widow, Amy Anderson (1867-1951), who sold 1946 to John Alexander Whitehead (d. c.1949); sold after his death and converted into an hotel; sold 1983 to CWR.

Aislabie family of Studley Royal

Aislabie, George (1618-75). Eldest son of Robert Aislabie (d. 1664) of Osgodby, farmer, and his wife Jane (d. 1657), baptised at Hemingborough (Yorks ER), 30 January 1617/8. Apprenticed to William Turbutt (d. 1648), Registrar of the York Ecclesiastical Courts, as a notary public and proctor in the church courts; he had qualified as a notary by 1644, when King Charles I appointed him as deputy to Turbutt, even though the ecclesiastical courts had been suspended since 1641. During the Civil War, he lived with William Turbutt at the latter's house in York and acted as his confidential clerk, and when Turbutt died he received a legacy of £200 and continued to live with Turbutt's widow, Elizabeth (d. 1662), and to assist her in defending proceedings before the Committee for the Advancement of Money relating to loans made by Turbutt to support the Royalist cause. George himself was fined £35 for a loan to Sir Henry Atkinson. In about 1650 he moved with Mrs. Turbutt to Mount St. John, Felixkirk (Yorks NR), and there are some indications that their relationship was closer than friendship, although there is no evidence (as some writers have suggested) for a marriage; in 1662 George was her principal legatee. In 1660 they moved back to York, where he had taken over as Principal Registrar of the church courts by October 1663; he also acted as Receiver-General to the Archbishop of York, another lucrative post. He received a grant of arms in 1663, and was appointed DL for the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1673. He married, 1663, Mary (1640-83), eldest daughter of Sir John Mallorie of Studley Royal (Yorks WR), and had issue:
(1) Mary Aislabie (b. 1664), born 26 August 1664; married, 8 September 1679 at Wheldrake (Yorks), Sir William Robinson (1655-1736), 1st bt. of Newby Hall (Yorks WR), and had issue eight sons and four daughters, whose descendants inherited the Studley Royal estates in 1845; died before 1720;
(2) Jane Aislabie (1665-1742); possibly the person of this name who married, 4 February 1706/7 at Rotherham (Yorks WR), Samuel Buck, but was widowed soon afterwards;
(3) Elizabeth Aislabie (1666-1746); died unmarried; will proved in the PCY, October 1746;
(4) Mallory Aislabie (1667-85), baptised at Holy Trinity Goodramgate, York, 16 October 1667; educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1683); died unmarried and was buried at Oxford, April 1685;
(5) Alicia Aislabie (1668-1742), baptised at Holy Trinity Goodramgate, York, 26 November 1668;
(6) George Aislabie (1669-93), baptised at Holy Trinity Goodramgate, York, 2 November 1669; educated at York and St. John's College, Cambridge (matriculated 1686); came into possession of the Studley estate on coming of age, November 1690, but died unmarried and was buried at Ripon Minster, 25 July 1693;
(7) John Aislabie (1670-1742) (q.v.);
(8) William Aislabie (1671-1725), born 3 December and baptised at St Michael-le-Belfry, York, 7 December 1671; apprenticed to the East India Company, 1689 and entered its service, 1692; Governor of Bombay, 1708-15; Director of East India Co., 1719-25; MP for Ripon, 1719-22; married, before 1706, a daughter of John Burniston, and had issue one son; buried at St Andrew Holborn, London, 16 November 1725;
(9) Thomas Aislabie (1672-94); apprenticed 1690; died young, about April 1694;
(10) Robert Aislabie (1673-75); died in infancy;
(11) Ann Aislabie (1675-76), born after the death of her father; died in infancy.
He purchased property at Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe from 1656 onwards, and the Treasurer's House in York in 1663. In 1667, on the death of his wife's brother, he inherited in her right a share in the Studley Royal estate and later bought out her co-heirs; a claim that he had coerced his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Mallorie, to sign over her share of the property to him may have lain behind the duel in which he became involved in 1675.
He died from wounds received in a duel with Jonathan Jennings of Ripon, 10 January 1675, and was buried in York Minster; Jennings subsequently received a royal pardon. His widow died in London, 19 January, and was buried in York Minster, 5 February 1682/3.

John Aislabie (1670-1742)
Aislabie, John (1670-1742). Third son of George Aislabie (1618-75) and his wife Mary, eldest daughter of Sir John Mallorie of Studley Royal, born 4 December and baptised at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, York, 7 December 1670. Educated at York, and then at St. John's College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (matriculated 1687; LLB 1692). Registrar of the Consistory Court at York. MP for Ripon, 1695-1702, Northallerton, 1702-05 and Ripon again, 1705-21; in his early years, he was a Tory in politics, but from 1710 onwards he voted increasingly with the opposition, and in 1714 he transferred his affiliation to the Whigs. A Lord of the Admiralty, 1710-14; Treasurer of the Navy, 1714-18; Privy Councillor, 1716-21; Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1718-21; he was forced to resign from office, 23 January 1721, over his management of the South Sea Bubble and accusations of corruption, and was expelled from Parliament and briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London. In reality, he was less culpable than the Directors of the South Sea Company and no more guilty than many other ministers; he believed he had been sacrificed in order to protect the reputation and career of Lord Sunderland and others close to the Crown, and nurtured a grievance against Sir Robert Walpole for the rest of his life on this account. After much delay, however, he was relatively leniently treated, being fined heavily (some £45,000) but far from ruinously, and debarred from standing for Parliament again. He hoped for a political rehabilitation, but this never came, partly because King George II believed he had swindled King George I out of £40,000, although in fact his dealings in South Sea shares on behalf of the Crown had shown a net profit of some £45,000; he also never secured the peerage to which his career would undoubtedly have led in other circumstances. DL for West Riding of Yorkshire, 1700 and for the North Riding, 1701. Mayor of Ripon, 1701-03, his mayoralty being commemorated by an obelisk in the Market Square designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and erected at his own expense. A Commissioner for the building of fifty new churches in London, 1710-27. In his later years he suffered increasingly from deafness. He married 1st, 2 June 1694, Anne (d. 1701), daughter of Sir William Rawlinson of Hendon House (Middx) and niece of the Most Rev. John Sharp, Archbishop of York, and 2nd, 1713 (licence 25 April), Judith (1676-c.1740), daughter of Sir Thomas Vernon and widow of Dr. Stephen Waller of Hall Barn (Bucks), and had issue:
(1.1) Mary Aislabie (1696-1736), baptised at St Andrew, Holborn, London, 23 August 1696; married, c.1724 (licence 10 November), Sir Henry Slingsby (c.1693-1763), 5th bt. of Scriven Park (Yorks), and had issue one son (who died young) and one daughter; died 31 May 1736 and was buried at Knaresborough (Yorks WR);
(1.2) Jane Aislabie (1697-1760?), baptised at St Andrew, Holborn, London, 23 September 1697; married, before 1724, Edmund Waller (c.1699-1771) of Hall Barn (Bucks) and Farmington (Glos), and had issue four sons and two daughters; probably the person of this name who was buried at St. Andrew, Holborn, London, 31 October 1760;
(1.3) William Aislabie (c.1700-81) (q.v.);
(1.4) An infant daughter (d. 1701), killed in the fire at Red Lion Square, January 1701.
He inherited the Studley Royal estate and the Treasurer's House in York on the death of his elder brother in 1693, but sold the Treasurer's House in 1698. Through his first marriage he acquired an estate in Leicestershire, including Beaumont Leys and the manor of Oadby. In 1716 he purchased an estate at How Hill, adjoining Studley Royal, on which he built an eyecatcher. In 1720 he commenced the purchase of Waverley Abbey, but this was not completed until 1725 because of the freezing of his assets; he then built a new house there to the designs of Colen Campbell, but sold it shortly after completion. In 1724 he bought the Kirkby Fleetham estate for his son, William for £23,000. From June 1724 he leased land adjacent to Studley Royal gardens from the Messenger family, and in 1731 he bought the Mackershaw estate from the Archbishop of York and Hackfall Woods. In 1727-29 he built 12 Grosvenor Square as a London residence to the designs of Roger Morris and Colen Campbell.
He died 18 June 1742 and was buried in Ripon Minster. His first wife was killed (with her infant daughter) in a fire at their house in Red Lion Square, London, January 1701. His second wife died about 1740.

William Aislabie (c.1700-81)
Aislabie, William (c.1700-81). Only son of John Aislabie (1670-1742) and his first wife, Anne, daughter of Sir William Rawlinson of Hendon House (Middx), born 1699 or 1700. As an infant, he survived the fire at Red Lion Square, in which his mother and sister were killed, by being thrown out of a window into the arms of the crowd below. He undertook an abortive grand tour (with his cousin, Thomas Robinson) in 1720, but progressed no further than Blois (France) where he fell ill; he returned home after the collapse of the South Sea Bubble. MP for Ripon, 1721-81; he voted consistently against Walpole's government, and may have flirted with Jacobitism in the 1730s and 1740s. Auditor of the Imprest, 1738-81. Registrar of the Consistory Court of York, 1749-81. Mayor of Ripon, 1724, 1740. DL of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1730, 1745. He married 1st, 21 May 1724 at St Martin, Stamford Baron (Lincs/Northants), Lady Elizabeth Cecil (1707-33), daughter of John Cecil, 6th Earl of Exeter, of Burghley House; and 2nd, 6 September 1745 at Ripon Minster, Elizabeth (1721-80), daughter of Sir Charles Vernon, kt. MP, of Farnham (Surrey), and had issue:
(1.1) John Aislabie (1725-65); apparently suffered from learning difficulties and epilepsy; travelled abroad extensively for medical advice, 1738-47; assistant mayor of Ripon, Jul-Sept 1748; lived afterwards in York under supervision; died unmarried and was buried at Ripon Minster, 10 May 1765;
(1.2) Elizabeth Aislabie (1726-1808) (q.v.);
(1.3) Anna Sophia Aislabie (1727-1802) (q.v.);
(1.4) William Aislabie (1729-59), baptised at St George, Hanover Square, London, 28 February 1728/9; an officer in the Green Howards by 1748; fell out with his father, who declared in 1754 'that I think myself in danger of my life from him...his presence is so disagreeable to me... that I am determined never to admit him into my house again', although some degree of rapprochement had been achieved by 1757; died 1759 and was buried in Ripon Minster;
(1.5) Jenny Maria Aislabie (1731-33), baptised at St George, Hanover Square, London, 21 July 1731; died in infancy of smallpox, and was buried in Ripon Minster, 28 April 1733;
(1.6) Judith Aislabie (c.1732-33); died in infancy of smallpox, and was buried in Ripon Minster, 28 April 1733;
(2.1) Charles Rawlinson Aislabie (b. 1746), baptised at St George, Hanover Square, London, 16 July 1746; died in infancy;
(2.2) Belinda Aislabie (b. 1748), born 21 February and baptised at St George, Hanover Square, London, 11 March 1747/8; died in infancy.
After the death of his first wife he had a number of mistresses, and by Catherine (d. 1745), daughter of Ayscough Kirk of Stamford (Lincs), dancing master, and known as 'Mrs Knightley', he had issue:
(X1) James Knightley (1740-85), born 27 March and baptised at St Marylebone (Middx), 1 May 1740; acknowledged as William's illegitimate son in the 1750s; funds were settled on trustees for his benefit, April 1766 and confirmed, 1776; will proved in the PCC, 3 November 1785;
(X2) Thomas Knightley (b. & d. 1741), baptised at St Marylebone, 8 September 1741; died in infancy and was buried at St Marylebone, 11 September 1741;
(X3) Catherine Wilhelmina Knightley (b. 1742), born 3 August and baptised at St Marylebone, 29 August 1742; died in infancy.
He was given the Kirkby Fleetham estate on his marriage in 1724 and inherited the Studley Royal estate and 12 Grosvenor Square, London, from his father in 1742. He remodelled the house at Studley Royal to the designs of Daniel Garrett in 1747-57 and 12 Grosvenor Square to the designs of Robert Adam. In 1768 he purchased the Fountains Hall estate from the Messenger family for £16,000. He leased Hendon Place (Middx) as a home near London from about 1774 until his death, and employed Robert Adam to remodel it and to redecorate 12 Grosvenor Square.
He died at 12 Grosvenor Square, 17 May, and was buried in Ripon Minster, 31 May 1781; his will was proved in the PCC, 30 May 1781. His first wife died of smallpox, 6 April, and was buried in Ripon Minster, 28 April 1733. His second wife was buried in Ripon Minster, 11 November 1780.

Mrs. Elizabeth Allanson
by Henry Milbourne
Aislabie, Elizabeth (1726-1808). Eldest daughter of William Aislabie (c.1700-81) and his first wife, Lady Elizabeth Cecil, daughter of John Cecil, 6th Earl of Exeter, born 12 July and baptised at St George, Hanover Square, 20 July 1726. She suffered from delicate health, and may have been something of a valetudinarian. She married, 14 February 1765 at St George, Hanover Square, London, as his second wife, Charles Allanson (c.1720-75) of Bramham Biggin (Yorks WR), MP for Ripon, 1768-75, but had no issue.
She inherited the Studley Royal estate and 12 Grosvenor Square from her father in 1781, but lived chiefly at her husband's house in Twickenham (Middx).
She died 8 March 1808 and was buried at Ripon Minster; her will was proved in the PCC, 4 May 1808. Her husband died 17 September 1775 and was buried in York Minster; his will was proved in the PCC, 10 November 1775.

Aislabie, Anna Sophia (1727-1802). Younger surviving daughter of William Aislabie (c.1700-81) and his first wife, Lady Elizabeth Cecil, daughter of John Cecil, 6th Earl of Exeter, born 20 September and baptised at St George, Hanover Square, London, 9 October 1727. She married, 20 November 1759 at Holy Trinity, Micklegate, York, Capt. William Lawrence (c.1723-98), MP for Ripon, 1781-98, and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence (1761-1845) (q.v.);
(2) William Lawrence (1763-85); educated at Charterhouse and St. John's College, Cambridge (admitted 1781; BA 1785), where he was regarded as a young man of enormous promise, noted for his zeal in antiquarian pursuits; died unmarried at Hotwells, Bristol, 8 November 1785, and was buried at Kirkby Fleetham, 28 November 1785, where he is commemorated by a monument by Flaxman.
She was disinherited by her father in 1759 after marrying without his consent, but they were reconciled in 1761, and she inherited the Kirkby Fleetham estate from her father in 1781.
She was buried at Kirkby Fleetham, 12 August 1802; her will was proved in the PCC, 13 August 1802. Her husband was buried at Kirkby Fleetham, 2 September 1798; his will was proved in the PCC, 24 September 1798.

Lawrence, Elizabeth Sophia (1761-1845). Only surviving child of Capt. William Lawrence MP (c.1723-98) and his wife Anne Sophie, daughter of William Aislabie of Studley Royal, born in Kensington (Middx), 18 February 1761. She was a great benefactress to Ripon and its hinterland, supporting numerous charities, including schools, chapels and works for the poor. She determined early in life to remain single, and despite being an heiress, remained unmarried and without issue, but was always known as 'Mrs. Lawrence'.
She inherited the Kirkby Fleetham estate from her mother in 1802 and Studley Royal, the Leicestershire estate, and 12 Grosvenor Square from her aunt in 1808. She was acting for her aunt in Studley estate affairs before 1808 and may have lived in the house before inheriting it. At her death, the Studley Royal estate passed (under the will of her grandfather, William Aislabie) to her distant kinsman, Thomas Philip Robinson (later Weddell then De Grey) (1781-1859), 3rd Baron Grantham and later 2nd Earl de Grey, whose wife she particularly disliked. Hackfall and property at Kirkby Malzeard, Hutton Conyers, Sharow and Copt Hewick passed to De Grey's brother, the Earl of Ripon. The Leicestershire estate devolved on Sir Cornwallis Ricketts, and Kirkby Fleetham passed to Henry Edmund Waller (1804-69).
She died in August 1845 and was buried at Kirkby Fleetham, 7 August 1845. In her will, proved in the PCC, 18 September 1845, she left bequests totalling £237,000, but the devolution of her real property was determined by the will of her grandfather.


J.J. Cartwright, The travels through England of Dr. Richard Pococke, 1889, ii, p. 163; H.E. Stuchbury, The architecture of Colen Campbell, 1967, pp. 64-66, 168-9; P. Leach & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding - Leeds, Bradford and the North, 2009, pp. 722-27; M. Newman, The Wonder of the North: Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, 2015, passim;

Location of archives

Aislabie, Mallorie and Robinson families: deeds, legal papers, manorial records, estate and household accounts and family correspondence, 12th-20th cents. [West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds: WYL150]

Coat of arms

Aislabie of Osgodby and Studley Royal: Gules, three lozenges conjoined in fesse argent between as many lions' heads erased 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 anyone provide fuller information about the recent history and ownership of Kirkby Fleetham Hall?
  • There are many missing genealogical details for this family, and I shall be particularly pleased to hear from anyone who has had the opportunity of inspecting original parish registers and can supply fuller information.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 25 June 2017.