Sunday, 3 March 2013

(8) Abney of Measham Hall

William Abney (1713-1800), a descendant of a younger son of George Abney of Willesley (see next post) was a barrister of the Inner Temple, and purchased the Measham estate and built Measham Hall in 1767.  The estate passed in turn to his sons Robert (b. 1748) and Edward (1751-1827), and then to the latter's grandson, William Wotton Abney (1807-66), who died relatively young, leaving a life interest in the house to his widow, Helen John Sinclair Abney (c.1810-93).  It then passed to W.W. Abney's cousin, Sir William de Wivelslie Abney (1843-1920), who had a distinguished career in astronomy and photography, and who seems to have altered the house.  When Sir William died in 1920, however, his heir, Lancelot Edward Guy Abney (1868-1939) sold the estate to Measham Colliery.  The colliery workings later undermined the house, which had to be demolished because of subsidence in 1959.  Lancelot's grandson was the actor, William Edward Charles Wotton Abney (1921-97)

Measham Hall (Derbyshire, now Leicestershire)

Measham Hall.  Picture courtesy of Matthew Beckett

A seven bay, two and a half storey house built for William Abney in 1767, with a three-bay pediment containing a little decoration, a hipped roof and quoins.  At either side were one bay connecting links and three-bay two-storey angle pavilions with pyramid roofs.  The style suggests the architect may have been William Henderson of Loughborough.  The interior had a grand staircase, rising the full height of the house, with three turned balusters per tread.  In the later 19th century the ground floor fenestration was altered, with the insertion of large tripartite windows and a canted bay window.  The house was sold to the Measham Colliery Co. in 1924 and divided into flats after 1945, but it later became unsafe because of mining subsidence and was demolished in 1959.

Previous owners:  William Abney (1713-1800); to son, Edward Abney (1751-1827); to son, William Wotton Abney (1780-1822); to son, William Wotton Abney (1807-66); to widow, Helen John Sinclair Abney (c.1810-93) for life and then to Sir William de Wivelslie Abney (1843-1920); to son, Lancelot Edward Guy Abney (1868-1939), who sold 1924 to Measham Colliery Co; dem. 1959.

The Abneys of Measham Hall

Abney, William (1713-1800), of Measham Hall, barrister.  Born 25 November 1713, third son of Robert Abney (b. 1672) and his wife Mary, dau of W. Webb of Hamstall Ridware.  Barrister of Inner Temple.  He married Catherine, daughter and heir of Thomas Wotton of Little Cannons (Herts) and had issue:
(1) Mary Abney, m. John Swinfen of Swinfen, esq.;
(2) Catherine Abney, m. Rev. Thomas Beaumont Burnaby, rector of Asfordby (Leics);
(3) Robert Abney (b. 1748) (q.v.);
(4) Edward Abney (1751-1827) (q.v.);
(5) George Abney (b. 1753), died unmarried after 1800;
(6) William Abney (b. c.1755), died unmarried.
He purchased Measham (Derbys now Leics) and built the Hall.
He died 2 August 1800; his will was proved 11 September 1800.

Abney, Robert (b. 1748) of Measham.  Eldest son of William Abney (1713-1800) and his wife Catherine, daughter of Thomas Wotton of Little Cannons, Shenley (Herts), born 29 October 1748.  High Sheriff of Leicestershire, 1777.  He married 1st, 17 March 1770 at Higham-on-the-Hill (Derbys), Anne (d. 1793), daughter of Rev. Philip Bracebridge and co-heir of her uncle Samuel Bracebridge of Lindley Hall (Warks) and Chios (Greece), and 2nd, 8 September 1800, as her third husband, Elizabeth Richards (nee Kirk, then Bacon) (c.1740-1830) and had issue:
(1.1) Samuel Bracebridge Abney (1771-1803); died unmarried and without issue at Altona (Italy), 5 June 1803; will proved 1 July 1803;
(1.2) twin, Anne Abney (1772-1843), married, 8 December 1800 at St Leonards, Shoreditch (Middx), Rev. Samuel Bracebridge Heming (1770-1856) of Lindley Hall and Belgrave Hall, Leicester and had issue; died Jan-Mar. 1843; will proved 28 April 1843;
(1.3) twin, William Abney (b. and d. 1772).
He lived at Lindley Hall (Warks).
He died at an unknown date after 1800. His widow died 27 November 1830.

Abney, Edward (1751-1827) of Measham Hall.
Edward Abney.  Image Philip Mould Ltd
Second surviving son of William Abney (1713-1800) and his wife Catherine, daughter of Thomas Wotton of Little Canons.  Joseph Wright of Derby painted portraits of him and his second wife.   He married 1st, 16 October 1775, Mary Sharpe of Leicester (d. 1776) and 2nd, 17 November 1779, Hephzibah (c.1758-1841), who was active as a watercolourist c.1790-1820, daughter of Samuel Need of Nottingham, and had issue:
(1.1) Catharina Martha Abney (b. & d. 1776);
(2.1) William Wotton Abney (c.1780-1822) (q.v.);
(2.2) Elizabeth Abney (1782-1850), baptised at Melbourne Independent Chapel, 16 December 1782; married, 8 September 1806 at Melbourne (Derbys), Henry Walker (1785-1860) of Blythe Hall and Clifton House (Notts) esq., eldest son of Joshua Walker, and had issue one son and two daughters; died February 1850;
(2.3) Capt. Edward Abney (1788-1839) of Aldridge (Staffs); educated at Repton School; an officer in the 52nd Light Infantry (Ensign, 1805; Lt., 1808; Capt.); married, 10 December 1822 at West Bromwich (Staffs), Ellen Rose (b. 1807), fourth daughter of Hyla Holden of Wednesbury (Staffs) and had issue three daughters; died 'after a lingering illness borne with Christian fortitude and resignation', 2 September 1839; will proved 14 August 1840.
He lived at Ashby Folville (Leics) and Kings Newton (Derbys) before he inherited Measham Hall from his father in 1800.
He died on 26 June 1827, aged 76. His widow died at Stapenhill House (Derbys), 27 March 1841.

W.W. Abney.
Image: Kate Jarvis
Abney, William Wotton (1780-1822) of Measham Hall.  Elder son of Edward Abney (1751-1827) and his second wife, Hephzibah, daughter of Samuel Need; baptised (as William Hutton Abney), 31 August 1780 at Castle Gate Meeting House, Nottingham.  Entered Royal Horse Guards (Blues), 1801 (Cornet 1801, Lieutenant 1803; Captain 1805).  A partner in the Mansfield Bank until his death in 1822.  He married at Fulford (Yorks), 8 April 1806, Elizabeth (1785-1855), daughter of William Richardson (d. 1816) of Fulford House (Yorks) and had issue:
(1) William Wotton Abney (1807-66) (q.v.);
(2) Catherine Elizabeth Abney (1810-87), m. 1835 Rev. William Travis Sandys of Graythwaite (d. 1883) and had issue one son
(3) Rev. Preb. Edward Henry Abney (1811-92) (q.v.)
He died at Fulford (Yorks), 18 May 1822, in the lifetime of his father, and was buried at Fulford, 25 May 1822, where he is commemorated by a memorial 

Abney, William Wotton (1807-66) of Measham Hall.  Born 5 January 1807, son of William Wotton Abney (d. 1822) and his wife Elizabeth, dau of W. Richardson.  JP and DL for Leicestershire; High Sheriff of Leicestershire in 1847.  He married, 6 May 1828, Helen John Sinclair (c.1810-93), eldest daughter of James Buchanan of Craigend Castle (Stirlingshire) and had issue including:
(1) a son, d. in infancy, 1829
He died 22 July 1866, when Measham Hall devolved on his widow for life; will proved at Derby, 22 October 1866. 

Abney, Rev. Preb. Edward Henry (1811-92) of The Firs, Derby, clerk in holy orders.  Born 22 September 1811, second son of William Wotton Abney (1780-1822) and his wife Elizabeth (1785-1855), dau of W. Richardson of Fulford House (Yorks).  Educated at Exeter College, Oxford (matriculated 1829, BA 1833); ordained deacon, 1834 and priest 1835 at York; curate of Holy Trinity, Micklegate, York; vicar of St. Alkmunds, Derby, 1841-86; prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral, 1873; Rural Dean of Derby.  In the 1840s, he was a pioneer of topographical photography and a friend of William Henry Fox-Talbot; by 1850 he was sharing his knowledge with two local enthusiasts, J.A. Warwick and Richard Keene, who founded the Derby Photographic Society.  He married, 31 January 1833, Catherine (1811-86), daughter of Jedidiah Strutt of Belper (Derbys) and had issue:
(1.1) Cecilia Elizabeth Abney (b & d. 1835);
(1.2) Henry Wootton Abney (b. 1836);
(1.3) Helen Elizabeth Abney (1838-1913), m. Joseph Paget of Stuffynwood Hall (Derbys) and had issue;
(1.4) Mary Catherine (or Catherine Mary) Abney (1839-94), m. 1861 Rev. Thomas William Bury of Kilburn (Middx), rector of Aisthorpe and had issue;
(1.5) Ellen Clerke Cecilia Abney (1840-1914), m. 1864 Lt. Pierce Eustace Laurence Alloysius Barron (1826-96) and had issue;
(1.6) Frances Beatrice Abney (1841-79), m. 1866 Capt. Henry Stair Sandys RN and had issue;
(1.7) Sir William de Wivelslie Abney (1843-1920) (q.v.);
(1.8) Florence Susan Grace Abney (1845-1928), m. 1878 George Selwyn Edwards, civil engineer;
(1.9) Emily Maude Abney (1847-55), d. unm.;
(1.10) Charles Edward Abney (1850-1914), solicitor, m. 1878, Sarah Alice (1857-1934), dau of Joshua Gliddon, shorthand writer and had issue 3 sons. 
He died 13 May 1892; will proved 2 July 1892 

Abney, Sir William de Wivelslie (1843-1920), kt. of Measham Hall.  Born 24 July 1843, son of Rev. Edward Henry Abney (1811-92) and his wife Catherine, dau of Jedidiah Strutt.  Educated at Rossall School and Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; joined Royal Engineeers 1861 and served in India (Capt.); chemical asst, Chatham School of Military Engineering; Director of Science & Art Dept of South Kensington Museum 1893-99; Principal Assistant Secretary, Secondary Branch, Board of Education 1889-1903; Adviser in Science to Board of Education; President of Royal Astronomical Soc 1892-93, 1896 and 1903-04; Vice-President of Royal Institution 1905-06; Rumford Medallist 1882; JP for Derbyshire and Leicestershire;  FRS, DCL, DSc.  He had an early introduction to photography through his father's interest, and became a pioneer of several technical aspects of photography and a founder member of Derby Photographic Society, 1884. His endeavors in the chemistry of photography produced useful photographic products and also developments in astronomy.  In 1874, Abney developed a dry photographic emulsion, which replaced "wet" emulsions. He also introduced new and useful types of photographic paper, including in 1882 a formula for gelatin silver chloride paper. His pioneering work lead to the development of color photography and ultimately to the instant Poloroid print. He conducted early research into the field of spectroscopy, developing a red-sensitive emulsion which was used for the infrared spectra of organic molecules. He also invented the "Abney Level", a combined clinometer and spirit level, used by surveyors to measure slopes and angles.  He was knighted in 1900 for the body of his scientific work.  He married 1st, 4 August 1864, Agnes Mathilda (d. 1888), youngest dau of Edward William Smith of Tickton Hall (Yorks) and 2nd, 3 December 1889, Mary Louisa (d. 6 December 1926), third dau of Rev. Dr. Edward Nathaniel Mead DD of Scarboro, New York (USA) and had issue:
(1.1) Lancelot Edward Guy Abney (1868-1939)
(1.2) Ethel Wootton Abney (d. 1932), m. 1894, Adm. Sir William Reginald Hall (d. 1943) and had issue
(1.3) Helen Lilian Abney (fl. 1952), unmarried.
(2.1) Janet Marie de Wivelslie Abney, m. 1939, Andrew Sidney Ransome MB, son of James Edward Ransome of Ipswich
In 1888 he lived at Willeslie House, 1 Wetherby Place, South Kensington (Middx).  He inherited Measham Hall on the death of his cousin’s wife in 1893.
He died in Folkestone (Kent), 3 December 1920, aged 77; his will was proved in London, 24 January 1921. 

Abney, Lancelot Edward Guy (1868-1939) of Measham Hall, company director.  Born 4 February 1868, son of Sir William de Wivelslie Abney (1843-1920) and his first wife Agnes Mathilda, dau of Edward William Smith of Tickton Hall (Yorks).  Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1889).  He married 25 October 1905 Annie Louise (fl. 1939), dau of Auguste de Wil and had issue:
(1) Agnes Mary de Wivelslie Abney (b. 1907), m. 12 October 1936 Ronald A.C. Hill of Indian Police, son of Col. A. Hill and had issue
(2) Isabel Joan de Wivelslie Abney (b. 1910), m. 10 October 1937 Clive Bailey, son of Harold Bailey of Coombe Hill, Kingston (Surrey) and had issue.
He appears to have acquired control of Measham Hall before his father’s death and sold it in 1919.
He died 13 March 1939; will proved at London, 9 May 1939

Abney, Henry Charles Wotton (1881-1953).  Born 20/23 April 1881, son of Charles Edward Abney (1850-1914), baptised 8 May 1881 at Derby.  Clerk in marine insurance office, 1901.  He married 2 July 1914 Janet Bentley, dau of William Littlejohn of Aberdeen and had issue:
(1) William Edward Charles Wootton Abney (1921-97)
(2) Annabel Constance Wootton Abney (b. 1916), m. 1933 Michael Henry Dewhurst, son of Rev. Henry Dewhurst, rector of Orsett (Essex) and had issue
He died 14 December 1953

Abney,William Edward Charles Wotton (1921-97).  Born 7 January 1921 in Upminster (Essex), son of Henry Charles Wotton Abney (1881-1953). Actor and writer, who appeared in films including The curse of the Pink Panther, 1983, and on the stage.  
He died 9 August 1997.


Burke's Landed Gentry, successive editions; M. Craven & M. Stanley, The Derbyshire country house, 2001, vol 2, p. 290; P. Elliot, 'The Firs: a 19th century houses and estate', Response: the University of Derby Online Journal, 9, 2011

Where are their papers?

No significant archive is known to survive. 

Revision & Acknowledgements

This post was first published on 3rd March 2013 and revised on 7th May 2014 and 1st July 2015. I am grateful to Kate Jarvis for additional information.


  1. The Gentleman's Magazine - Volume 12 - Page 543 gives an obit. for Lieut. General Samuel NEED from which it is possible to deduce that he was b:c.1766 (he died 18 Aug 1839 aged 73 at his residence Fountain Dale, Notts.)

    I have also found the following LDS record:
    Name: Hephiziba Need
    Event Type: Baptism
    Christening Date: 29 Sep 1758
    Christening Place: Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
    Father's Name: Samuel Need

    1. Lieut. General Samuel NEED c. 1766-18 Aug 1839 therefor this Hephzibah was born before the Lieut. General.
    2. If Edward Abney married Hephzibah Need on 17 Nov 1779 then Lieut. General Samuel NEED would only have been 3 years old!
    3. This Hephzibah would however have been 21 years old..

    Based on this I believe that the Hephzibah Need who married Edward Abney was probably the sister of Lieut. General Samuel Need and not his daughter.

    1. Thank you for this correction. It is easy to see how the mistake has been made, as both Hephzibah's father and brother were called Samuel. I have amended the entry accordingly.

  2. Love the genealogy you have pulled together on the Abney's of Measham. I have 2 large early 19c oil paintings originally from Measham Hall. One is of Cap't William Wooton painted in 1815 in his Blues uniform. The other was painting of a lady in the manner of Sir Peter Lely and inscribed as a wedding gift to Elizabeth Richards (when she married for the 3rd time) to Robert Abney in 1800, as the inherited daughter of "James" (? should this be Robert?)_Abney.
    If you want me to send you any pictures just let me know. Anything to clear up the James reference would help, was it a middle or pet name for Robert? or just a mistake around names?
    Graham Jarvis

  3. Thank you for getting in touch. If you would be happy for me to include an image of the painting of Capt. WW Abney in the blog I should be very pleased to have a photograph of it. Do you have my email address? I am not clear what the inscription on the other painting implies ("the inherited daughter" is a new phrase to me); is it clear who it was a gift from? It seems possible it could be from Elizabeth's side of the family, and hence not of an Abney at all. Certainly the name James Abney does not occur in this branch of the family, although it was extensively used in the 17th century among the Abneys of Willesley Hall.
    Nick Kingsley

  4. Need a starting point/recommendation to find the burial locations of the Measham ( and Willesley) Abneys. Robert Abney, USA...7th g-grandson of Edmund Abney, Leicester.

    1. I assume most of the Measham branch were buried at Measham. The registers survive from 1681 onwards (see The Abneys of Willesley may similarly be mainly at Willesley, where the burial registers survive from 1617 (see sets of records can be found at the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland at Wigston (
      Hope this helps.
      Nick Kingsley

  5. I'm trying to find out if a family member worked at Measham Hall. Are there any records of staff ?
    Many thanks
    Ruth Cobley

    1. Sadly I am not aware of the survival of an archive of the estate. You could contact the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland in case they hold any uncatalogued records which might help you. Contact details are here (cut and paste this link into you browser):



Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.