|Aislabie of Studley Royal|
|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.|
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
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.|
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 Mallorie (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.|
|Kirkby Fleetham Hall: drawing room, 1889|
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...sold c.2010 and returned to private ownership.
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.|
|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)|
(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.
(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
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 and was updated 19 August 2018.