Tuesday, 11 October 2016

(233) Burnaby-Atkins of Halstead Place

Burnaby of Baggrave and
Burnaby-Atkins of Halstead
The founder of this family was John Atkins (c.1760-1838), whose parentage is obscure. The fact that he had a brother named Abraham suggests some connection with the Atkins family of Kingston Lisle, but his immediate origins were probably fairly humble. As a youth he went to sea, and he later became a 'tide-waiter' in the Customs service (one of the Customs officers who boarded vessels entering British waters to ensure observance of customs regulations). He later became a West India merchant, for a time in partnership with his brother, Abraham, and later with his son and heir, John Pelly Atkins (1790-1872). By the time of his second marriage in 1803 he was sufficiently well-established to marry into the Burnaby family of Baggrave Hall (Leics), and he was Lord Mayor of London in 1818-19. At the time of his death he owned a string of coffee plantations in Jamaica and Bermuda and was worth £160,000.

In the early 1820s, John Atkins invested some of the profits of his business in the purchase of the Halstead Place estate in Kent; he was established there by 1822 when he was employing two men from Blackheath (Kent) to fell timber in the park. Atkins had fourteen children, but eleven of them died young and he left only one son (by his first marriage) and two daughters (by his second): the daughters married two Burnaby brothers who were their first cousins. John Pelly Atkins married Anna Children (1799-1871), who was a published novelist and illustrator, and a keen botanist. Their circle of friends included William Henry Fox-Talbot and Sir John Herschel, and Anna was perhaps the first woman to experiment with photography. She allied her interest in botany with Fox-Talbot's 'photogenic drawing' and Herschel's cyanotype process to produce Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in October 1843; this is generally regarded as the first published work to be illustrated with photographs, and it was followed by similar works on ferns and flowering plants in the 1850s.

Ironically, in view of her maiden name, John and Anna had no children, and when John died in 1872 his will provided for the Halstead estate to pass to his sister's nephew by marriage, Thomas Frederick Burnaby (1836-1918), on condition that he took the additional name Atkins. His will does not mention West Indian estates, so presumably these had been sold by then. T.F. Burnaby-Atkins married Elizabeth Francklin of Gonalston (Notts), who lived to the remarkable age of 94 and died during the Second World War, and several of their daughters were also notably long-lived. They produced only one son, however, John Burnaby-Atkins (1873-1946), who seems to have leased or sold Halstead Place as a school fairly soon after inheriting it.
Tolethorpe Hall. Image: Dave Crosby. Some rights reserved.
He retained a house in Halstead village until the Second World War, but also rented Tolethorpe Hall at Little Casterton in Rutland, which became his main home. Tolethorpe was in hunting country and that may have been the attraction of the place. At Tolethorpe, he and his wife brought up a family of two sons and a daughter. The sons were of an age to move straight from school into the army during the Second World War. The elder, Frederick John Burnaby-Atkins (1920-2012) joined the Black Watch but was captured during the retreat to Dunkirk and was a prisoner of war until 1945 (he escaped once, but was recaptured close to the Swiss border). The younger, Andrew Graham Burnaby-Atkins (1922-95), gained a reputation for 'exceptional valour, bordering on recklessness' and was twice awarded the Military Cross. In the immediate aftermath of the war, both men were placed in the households of very senior figures: Frederick first as ADC to Field Marshal Lord Wavell and then as ADC and Comptroller of the Household to Lord Mountbatten of Burma while he was the last Viceroy of India, and Andrew as ADC to Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery. Maj. Andrew Burnaby-Atkins left the army in 1953 for a life of farming and hunting in Rutland; he was Director of the Burghley Horse Trials in the 1970s. Lt-Col. Frederick Burnaby-Atkins stayed in the army until 1971, and served briefly as Private Secretary to HRH Princess Margaret during the difficult period when her marriage to Lord Snowdon was breaking down; the last ten years of his career were spent with the Security Services. The lease of Tolethorpe Hall was given up in 1967 and in retirement Col. Burnaby-Atkins lived at Oaksey in Wiltshire, where his wife's family had an estate.

Halstead Place, Kent

Nothing is known about the original manor house of Halstead, which probably stood on the same site as its successor, close to the medieval parish church. It seems to have been entirely replaced in the 18th century by a house built in two phases, which was called Halstead Court until the 1760s
Halstead Place in the early 20th century. The house was of two periods: the lower, right-hand part dated from c.1710 and the taller left-hand part probably from the 1760s. Image: Matthew Beckett

The earlier part of the Georgian house, which may have dated from c.1710, was presumably built for Sir James Ashe, and consisted of a seven-bay two-and-a-half storey block of red brick. By the time this was recorded in 20th century photographs, the end bay on the right had blind windows, but the building can never have been symmetrical because the two bays of windows on the left were slightly more widely spaced than the remaining five bays.

The later part of the house was probably built for Sir Ralph Foley in the 1760s (the stables are dated 1772). It was again of red brick, and two-and-a-half storeys, but rather larger in scale than the older part of the house, so that a plat band above the first-floor windows continued the line of the roof cornice on the older part of the house. A balustraded parapet above the attic largely concealed the low pitched roof. The entrance front had six windows, but again the left-hand two were distinguished from the rest, this time by being stepped slightly forward. A Victorian porch on the right-hand bay of the later part of the house may imply some rearrangement of the layout in the 19th century.

Halstead Place: the rear and side elevations in 1952. Image: Historic England

The rear and side elevations of the later block were similar in style and simplicity. The rear had eight bays, with the right-hand three projecting to form a short wing, with another Victorian doorcase and a balustraded square bay window. To the left of the mid 18th century block stood a three-bay service wing behind the house of c.1710.

Halstead Place: the upper landing of the staircase. Image: Historic England

Inside, the decoration appears to have been of the mid 18th century and later. The panelled staircase hall had a timber staircase with two solid turned balusters per step supporting an elegantly ramped handrail. The Corinthian pillars supporting the gallery and the roof above the gallery were, however, probably a 19th century addition as they are not classically disposed and have something of the air of acroprops. The main drawing room had an elegant neo-classical ceiling and chimneypiece of the late 18th century.

After the death of T.F. Burnaby-Atkins the house was apparently let or sold as a school. During the Second World War it was requisitioned for military use and later became a Prisoner of War camp. The house seems to have been abandoned at this time and by 1952 it was semi-derelict and severely affected by dry rot. It was demolished in that year and in 1954-56 a residential secondary school was built in the grounds, preserving only the stable block of 1772. The school in turn had been demolished by 2012, when the site was redeveloped for housing of an expensive but relentlessly unappealing kind.

Descent: William Petley (d. 1528); to son, Stephen Petley... Thomas Petley, sold c.1575 to Sir Thomas Watson, kt. (d. 1621); to daughter Elizabeth, wife of Sir William Pope (1573-1631) of Wilcot (Oxon), later 1st Earl of Downe; to grandson, Thomas Pope (1622-60), 2nd Earl of Downe, who sold to Edward Ashe (1599-1656) of Heytesbury; to younger brother, Sir Joseph Ashe (c.1616-86), 1st bt.; to son, Sir James Ashe (1674-1733), 2nd bt., who sold to ?? Lansdell; to John Lansdell, who sold 1738 to Lord Vere Beauclerk (d. 1781), who sold the house and about eight acres in 1755 to Robert Bagshaw, who sold c.1756 to Sir Robert Ralph Foley (c.1727-82), 1st bt.; sold to John Sargent (d. 1791); sold after his death to Arnold Arnold esq. (fl. 1829); sold c.1822 to John Atkins (c.1760-1838); to son, John Pelly Arnold (c.1790-1872); to his sister's nephew by marriage, Thomas Frederick Burnaby (later Burnaby-Atkins) (d. 1918); to son, John Burnaby-Atkins (1873-1946), who let or sold it as a school; requisitioned for military use in WW2 and retained until 1954; demolished 1952 and the site sold to Kent CC as a site for a residential school and demolished; the site has recently been redeveloped for suburban housing.

Atkins (later Burnaby-Atkins) family of Halstead Place

Atkins, John (c.1760-1838). Parentage unknown. As a young man, Atkins went to sea, and then became a Customs tide waiter. In the late 18th century he settled down as a West India merchant and agent in the City, where about 1795 he was joined by his brother; they traded under the style of John and Abraham Atkins at Walbrook. He owned a number of plantations in Jamaica (including the Forest Estate, Hopewell, Mount Hybla and Trafalgar) and a large property in Bermuda. He became a member of the Merchant Taylors Co. in 1800, was a Director of the East India Dock Co., 1805-38 and Vice-President of the Society of Shipowners, 1817. An Alderman of the City of London, 1808-38; Sheriff of London, 1809-10 and Lord Mayor of London, 1818-19. A Tory in politics, he was MP for Arundel, 1802-06, City of London, 1812-18 and Arundel, 1826-32. He was described as "not remarkable for polished manners; but... a shrewd and worthy man, filling the seat of justice with impartiality, and dispensing the hospitality of the City with an open hand". According to his obituary he was offered a baronetcy in 1819 but declined the honour. He married 1st, 12 April 1779 at St Stephen Walbrook, London, Sarah Littell (d. 1802) and 2nd, 1 October 1803 at St Alphege, Greenwich (Kent), Anna Maria, daughter of the Ven. Dr. Andrew Burnaby DD of Baggrave Hall (Leics), archdeacon of Leicester and vicar of Greenwich, and had issue:
(1.1) Drury Hunt Atkins (1788-89), born 5 June and baptised at St Michael Cornhill, London, 2 July 1788; died in infancy and was buried at St Michael Cornhill, 20 February 1789;
(1.2) John Pelly Atkins (1790-1872) (q.v.);
(1.3) Henry Dent Atkins (1791-92), born 31 October and baptised at St Mary Colechurch, London, 14 December 1791; died in infancy and was buried at St Mary Colechurch, 1 March 1792;
(1.4) Sarah Atkins (b. 1793), baptised at St Mary Colechurch, London, 26 January 1793; died young;
(1.5) William Dent Atkins (b. 1794), baptised at St Mary Colechurch, London, 2 February 1794; died young;
(1.6) Edward Foot Atkins (b. 1796), born 12 July 1796 and baptised at St Stephen Walbrook, London, 21 April 1798; died young;
(1.7) Julia Atkins (b. 1798), born 8 March and baptised at St Stephen Walbrook, London, 21 April 1798; died young;
(1.8) Charles Atkins (b. 1801), born 18 January and baptised at St Stephen Walbrook, London, 15 February 1801; died young;
(2.1) Anna Maria Atkins (1805-78), born 3 January and baptised at St Stephen Walbrook, 15 January 1805; married, 13 May 1830 at Marylebone (Middx), her cousin, Rev. Frederick George Burnaby (1803-80) of Asfordby Hall (Leics), vicar of Lowesby , Plungar and Barkstone (all Leics), second son of Col. John Dick Burnaby of Rotherby Hall (Leics), but had no issue; died 14 March 1878; administration of goods granted 27 July 1878 (effects under £3,000);
(2.2) Andrew Burnaby John Atkins (1806-16), born 17 May and baptised at St Stephen Walbrook, 19 May 1806; died young, 3 March 1816;
(2.3) Sarah Jane Atkins (1807-43), born 29 November and baptised at St Stephen Walbrook, 1 December 1807; married, 19 April 1836 at Halstead, her cousin, John Dick Burnaby (1802-55) of Asfordby (Leics) and Evington, barrister-at-law, son of Col. John Dick Burnaby of Rotherby Hall (Leics), and had issue one son; buried at Asfordby, 18 November 1843;
(2.4) Edwyn John Ibbetson Atkins (1809-11), born 22 June and baptised at St Stephen Walbrook, 25 June 1809; died in infancy, 7 April 1811;
(2.5) Charlotte Atkins (1811-13), born 26 January and baptised at St Stephen Walbrook, 26 February 1811; died young, 28 May 1813;
(2.6) Esther Anne Atkins (1812-32), born 26 October 1812; died unmarried, 13 July 1832;
(2.7) Mary Sherrard Atkins (1813-16), born 15 October 1813; died young, 23 March 1816.
He purchased Halstead Place about 1822.
He died 26 October, and was buried at Halstead, 2 November 1838; his will proved 10 November 1838 (effects under £90,000). His first wife died in September 1802. His second wife died 10 July 1824.

Atkins, John Pelly (1790-1872). Only surviving son of John Atkins (c.1760-1838) and his first wife, Sarah Littell, born 19 March and baptised at St Michael Cornhill, London, 26 April 1790. West India merchant and coffee plantation owner, initially in partnership with his father; in the 1850s he interested himself in promoting railways in the Kent area. High Sheriff of Kent, 1847. He rebuilt the church at Halstead on a new site across the road from, and a little further north than, its predecessor of 1609. He married, 30 August 1825 at St George, Bloomsbury (Middx), Anna (1799-1871), novelist, botanist and pioneer of photography, daughter of John George Children, but had no issue.
He inherited Halstead Place and his father's Jamaican and Bermudan estates in 1838. At his death his property passed to his sister's nephew by marriage, Thomas Frederick Burnaby (later Burnaby-Atkins).
He died 29 September 1872 and was buried at Halstead; his will was proved 16 October 1872 (estate under £160,000). His wife died 9 June 1871; administration of her goods (with will annexed) was granted 2 January 1873.

Burnaby (later Burnaby-Atkins), Thomas Frederick (1836-1918). Son of Thomas Fowke Andrew Burnaby* (1808-93) of Brampton Manor House (Hunts) and his wife Emily (d. 1893), eleventh daughter of Rupert Chawner MD of Burton-on-Trent, born 13 March 1836. Educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (admitted 1854; BA 1859; MA 1864). He assumed the additional name of Atkins by royal licence, 3 January 1873, after inheriting the Halstead Place estate. JP (from 1875) and DL for Kent. He married, 2 January 1868 at Gonalston (Notts), Elizabeth (c.1849-1943), daughter of John Francklin of Gonalston Hall and Great Barford (Beds) and had issue:
(1) Frances Eveline Burnaby (1868-71), born 24 October 1868; died young, 31 January 1871;
(2) Emily Mary Burnaby (later Burnaby-Atkins) (1869-1951), born 19 December 1869; married, 3 February 1903, Lt-Gen. Sir Ronald Charles Maxwell, KCB KCMG (1852-1924), son of Lt-Col. C.F. Maxwell, but had no issue; died 9 October 1951; will proved 26 November 1951 (estate £21,612);
(3) Elizabeth Caroline Burnaby (later Burnaby-Atkins) (1871-1960), born 12 September 1871; married, 5 April 1894, Lancelot Francis Orde (1859-1939), second son of James Henry Orde JP of Hopton House (Suffk) and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 12 September 1960, aged 91; will proved 5 January 1961 (estate £4,665);
(4) John Burnaby-Atkins (1873-1946) (q.v.);
(5) Violet Burnaby-Atkins (1875-1969) of Nurstead Court (Kent), born 16 July 1875; amateur artist; married, 27 June 1911, Col. Henry Edmeades (1875-1952), son of Maj-Gen. Henry Edmeades of Nurstead Court and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 19 June 1969, aged 93; will proved 28 October 1969 (estate £19,814);
(6) Cecily Burnaby-Atkins (1876-1967), born 6 September 1876; served as a VAD nurse in the First World War; died unmarried, 27 September 1967, aged 91; will proved 7 November 1967 (estate £20,108);
(7) Judith Lilian Burnaby-Atkins (1878-1951), born 5 November 1878; married, 30 December 1913, as his second wife, Maj. Clement Octavius Edward Nicholson (1874-1930), eighth son of William Nicholson of Basing Park (Hants); died 13 October 1951; will proved 5 December 1951 (estate £35,275);
(8) Millicent Burnaby-Atkins (1890-1956), born 31 January 1890; died unmarried, 9 October 1956; will proved 23 November 1956 (estate £25,315).
He lived at Collingham Manor House (Notts) from the time of his marriage until he inherited the Halstead Place estate from John Pelly Atkins in 1872.
He died 28 September 1918; his will was proved 11 July 1919 (estate £157,672). His widow died 27 May 1943, aged 94; her will was proved 22 July 1943 (estate £7,663).
* There will be a future post on the Burnaby family of Baggrave Hall.

Burnaby-Atkins, John (1873-1946). Only son of Thomas Frederick Burnaby-Atkins (d. 1918) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Francklin of Gonalston Hall (Notts) and Great Barford (Beds), born 15 September 1873. Educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford (admitted 1891; MA 1906). High Sheriff of Rutland, 1928. A County Councillor for Rutland, 1928-34. He served as a Lieutenant in the West Kent Yeomanry and was on the staff of the War Office, 1914-19. He married, 3 December 1919, Dorothy Dalrymple Graham (1895-1982), elder daughter of Graham Watson of Baberton House (Midlothian), and had issue:
(1) Frederick John Burnaby-Atkins (1920-2012) (q.v.);
(2) Andrew Graham Burnaby-Atkins (1922-95) of Manton Lodge (Rutland), born 29 December 1922; an officer in the King's Royal Rifle Corps, 1942-53 (Lt., 1942; Capt., 1949; Major, 1953); served in WW2, 1942-45; noted for his 'exceptional valour, bordering on recklessness' and awarded MC and bar; ADC to Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery, 1947-49; Director of the Burghley Horse Trials, 1977-79; married, 1966, Anne Caroline (b. 1938), daughter of Christopher Thomas Dalgety of Broomy Lodge, Linwood (Hants), and had issue one son and one daughter; died 23 July 1995; will proved 1 December 1995 (estate £1,411,948);
(3) Mary Dalrymple Burnaby-Atkins (b. 1925), born 1 February 1925; married, 12 January 1954 at Chelsea (Middx), Peter Francis Hanbury (b. 1918), youngest son of Nigel Hanbury of Green End House, Ware (Herts), and had issue one son and one daughter.
He inherited the Halstead Place estate from his father in 1918, but sold or leased it for use as a school. He leased Tolethorpe Hall, Little Casterton (Rutland) from the Eaton family from the 1920s onwards. His widow lived there until 1967 and later at Tinwell Grange (Rutland).
He died 16 August 1946; his will was proved 24 January 1947 (estate £50,484). His widow died 12 August 1982; her will was proved 8 March 1983 (estate £132,014).

Burnaby-Atkins, Lt-Col. Frederick John (1920-2012). Elder son of John Burnaby-Atkins (1873-1946) and his wife Dorothy Dalrymple Graham, elder daughter of Graham Watson of Baberton House (Midlothian), born 9 November 1920. Educated at Eton and Royal Military College, Sandhurst. An officer in the Black Watch, 1939-70 (Lt., 1940; Capt., 1946; Major, 1952; Lt-Col., 1967); he served in WW2 and was a Prisoner of War, 1940-45 (escaped and was recaptured); ADC to Field Marshal Lord Wavell, 1946-47 and ADC and comptroller of the household to Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, as Viceroy of India, 1947-48; military attaché at British embassies in Portugal, 1961-63 and Morocco, 1967-68; Comptroller of Governor-General's household in New Zealand, 1964-67. After retiring from the army he was Equerry and Private Secretary to HRH Princess Margaret, 1971-74; and then an officer in the Security Services, 1974-85. He married, 13 October 1951, Hon. Anne Jennifer (1926-95), youngest daughter of Geoffrey Lawrence, 1st Baron Oaksey and later 3rd Baron Trevethin, and had issue:
(1) Charlotte Elizabeth Cecily Burnaby-Atkins (b. 1952), born 10 November 1952; married, Jul-Sep. 1980, (Jeremy) Patrick (Stewart) Crawford CB (b. 1952), Chief Executive of UK Export Finance and The Charity Bank Ltd., son of Sir (Robert) Stewart Crawford GCMG, and had issue one son and three daughters;
(2) Catherine Rose Burnaby-Atkins (b. 1954), born 14 October 1954; headmistress of the Sinclair Montessori Nursery School, London W14;
(3) Rosamond Louise Burnaby-Atkins (b. 1957); advertising executive at Ackroyd Publishing, Brussels, 1985-2012; married, 1981, Marc L. J-M. Weemels of Brussels (Belgium) and had issue three sons;
(4) John Charles Graham Burnaby-Atkins (b. 1961), born 19 November 1961; married, 1993, Emma Elisabeth, daughter of James Smith, and had issue two sons.
He continued his father's lease of Tolethorpe Hall until 1967, but lived thereafter in London and at Oaksey (Wilts).
He died 16 June 2012; his will was proved 31 January 2013. His wife died 4 February 1995; her will was proved 27 April 1995 (estate £21,772).


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1965, p. 26; E. Hasted, History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, vol. 3, 1797, pp. 13-19; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/army-obituaries/9436767/Lt-Col-Freddy-Burnaby-Atkins.html.

Location of archives

Atkins, later Burnaby-Atkins, family of Halstead: deeds and papers, 16th-20th cents. [Kent History & Library Centre, U969]

Coat of arms

The family used the arms of the Burnaby family: Argent, two bars gules, in chief a lion passant guardant of the second.

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.
  • Does anyone know exactly when John Atkins purchased Halstead Place?
  • Does anyone know whether the family retained ownership of Halstead Place in the 1920s when it became a school, and if so, when they sold the freehold?
  • The parentage of John Atkins (c.1760-1838) is obscure. Can anyone provide information about this, or his date of birth or baptism?
  • Can you provide portraits or photographs of any of the people named in bold above?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 11th October 2016.


  1. Sir,

    With regard to John Atkins (c. 1760-1838), I have the following:

    The European Magazine and London Review Feb. 1819 has a 'Memoir of The Right Hon. John Atkins, Lord Mayor of the City of London 1819';

    'The Subject of the present Memoir was born in Warwickshire, and is descended from an ancient family in Gloucestershire, to which the learned Judge Atkins was nearly allied. His father and grandfather having only a small patrimonial fortune, he received a private education, and very early in life embarked in the Navy.'

    His sister, Mary-Anne, is given in the 'Milward of The Manor House, Lechlade' entry in Burke's Landed Gentry 1863 vol II as having married George Milward, J.P., of that place; she d. 1813. Also mentioned here: http://ghgraham.org/georgemilward1808.html

    'The Poll of the Freeholders of Warwickshire 1774' lists a John Atkins, a Thomas Atkins, of Warwick, and a Thomas Atkins, of Long Lawford. England Birth and Christening records for 1538-1972 give several results for John Atkins born Warwickshire between 1750 and 1770, making identifying the correct one (if he even appears here) difficult without further details.

    The 'ancient family' of Atkins of Gloucestershire is given attention in Burke's Landed Gentry 1838, under 'Atkins of Firville'; this Irish family provides many pages of detail, with a point of note arising thus: 'In 1610, died Richard Atkins, esq. under age (whose father had large properties in Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire) he left issue [ed. with two other sons] Sir Edward Atkines (sic), of Saperton Hall, Gloucestershire, Baron of the Exchequer, a very loyal person, who left two sons...' etc. The veracity of the Lord Mayor's claim (or the claim made on his behalf) is, at least with the information I have to hand, impossible to ascertain. It might be considered that, with the memoir being contemporaneous, he would be caught out in such a lie, but others have of course self-aggrandised in like manner and not been uncovered until many years after the fact.

    The Monmouthshire Atkins family (v.s.), for the record, began their pedigree with 'Thomas Atkines, living in 1390, d. in 1401, buried at St Pancras'.

    1. Thank you for these leads. The Gloucestershire Atkyns family are well known to me as Sir Robert Atkyns was the author of the first county history of Gloucestershire, and will be the subject of a future post on my blog. A number of Atkins families claimed kinship with them, but as far as I am aware the relationship is never wholly clear!


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.