About this blogIn this blog I am sharing my research on the architectural and family history of British and Irish landed families and their country houses, in the hope that others will find the material interesting and useful: the usage of the site by more than 30,000 readers a month from all round the world suggests that others share my interests. I want in particular to show how the history of the houses reflects that of the families who built and owned them; to lay bare the connections and kinship networks which so often shaped the patronage choices which owners made. The approach has been developed on the basis of my previous research on Gloucestershire country houses, where I was able to visit almost every surviving house and personally inspect all the surviving archival evidence. However that one county study took me 20 years, and in scaling up to a national canvas I am inevitably largely dependent on the original research of others.
The research which supports this blog is therefore primarily derived from secondary sources, online catalogues of archives, and digitised original sources, although I am also drawing on a lifetime of country house and church visiting, which means that over the years I have been to quite a lot of the places described, including many that are not open to the public. The secondary sources - and especially the Internet sources - for genealogy, and indeed for the architectural history of country houses, are notoriously full of inaccuracies and wish-fulfillment, and I hope that as an archivist I bring to bear on this material over 40 years of experience in evaluating and testing the evidence they provide, so as to offer in the blog as factual an account as I can. However, while the information provided is as accurate as I can make it while maintaining a reasonable output, I am far from infallible in both my discovery of sources and my assessment of them, and I will be genuinely grateful for additional information and corrections supplied by readers, and especially by the current owners of the houses and by descendants of the families discussed, who may have personal archives containing information not otherwise available. I make updates and corrections to past posts on a regular basis, so trustworthy information supplied will be incorporated within a few days. I include at the end of each account a note of when it was first published and subsequently amended, so that readers who refer to the site at intervals can see at a glance whether an account has been updated since their last visit.
I have been asked how I select families and houses for inclusion. My rule of thumb is that a family should have owned and occupied at least one country house continuously for over half a century and more than one generation, and should have used it as a country house (not as a farm or a furniture store!). Most of the families included will be found in the pages of one or more editions of Burke's Landed Gentry or Peerage & Baronetage, though not all. Impressively comprehensive though those works are, some families do seem to have slipped through their net, and of course some families died out before John Burke began publishing in the 1820s and 1830s, such as the Ackloms of Wiseton Hall or the Agards of Foston Hall. I have also been asked about which families I have considered for inclusion, but rejected as not meeting these criteria; a list of these is given below. It will be seen that many of the families which are included in one or more editions of Burke's publications do not meet my criteria. (If you think any of these families did meet the criteria, please let me know!)
Saying that a family is selected for inclusion on the basis of owning a country house of course begs the question of what is a country house, which is interesting and tricky to define. My best effort is that it is a residential building which at the time it was built was in a rural setting and exhibited the characteristics that suggested gentry or aristocratic status to contemporaries. Those characteristics changed over time, with the varying social and economic significance of land ownership and changing architectural and landscaping fashions. Houses that were built as country houses could - and did - decline in status; others that had been simple farms over centuries could be refashioned and redecorated and lived in in a different way, and become country houses almost overnight. Those are the principles of selection, but I reserve the right to bend the rules to write about any family or house that interests me, and indeed to exclude the terminally dull!
I have already received very generous help of various kinds with the project from Sir William Arbuthnot, bt., Catherine Beale, Matthew Beckett, Peter Bell, Chris Bennett, Martin Deacon, Javis Gurr, Charles Hind, Gareth Hughes, Thomas Lloyd, the National Trust, Chris Pickford, Liz Rees, Rob Wheeler, Chris Whittick and Sue Wood.
I have also received help with particular families and houses from William Acton, John Ainslie, Peter Archdale, Jill Armitage, Anthea Ashfield, James Ashford, Pete & Jackie Bettess, David Bowd-Exworth, Paul Bradley, David Brown, Nicholas Coleridge, Peter de Loriol, Geoffrey de Wilton, Joanne Eastman, Alison Elliott, David Erskine, Kate Feluś, Niamh Fitzpatrick, Elisabeth Frankish, Bil Fulton, Susan Griffiths, Clare Hartwell, Jon Hearn, Stan Hicks, Debbie Hodgson, Marc Hoover, Martyn Howes, Michael Kelly, Felicity Learey, Caroline Magnus, David Martin, Jean F. Milne, Nick Molyneux, Tim Mowl, Jeremy Musson, Jonathan Myles-Lea, Phil Norris, Lord Norton, Bernard Nurse, Christine Penney, Austen Redman, Anthony Ruscoe, Megan Ryan, Bob Scott-Ashe, Colin Varley, John Venning, Chris Webb, Cressida Williams and Roger White.
I am also particularly grateful to all those who have generously allowed me to reproduce individual photographs from other online and archival sources in return for nothing more than an acknowledgement, and in particular to Matthew Beckett, Charles Hind, Rob Wheeler, Historic England and National Trust Images: the number and quality of the illustrations I can offer is thereby much enhanced. The images used are wherever possible my own, rights cleared, or available under a Creative Commons licence or equivalent. For images taken from the Web it has in some cases not been possible to establish or to contact a rights owner; if anyone can show their copyright has been infringed please contact me and I will either add an appropriate credit or take down the image.
Anatomy of the blog
Comments from readers suggest it may be helpful to explain a bit more about how posts on this blog are structured. Each post is in three parts:
Firstly, a general narrative account of the family from its first rise to gentry status down to its extinction, lapse from gentry status, or the present day, paying particular attention to its fluctuating status and wealth and the acquisition and dispersal of landed estates.
Secondly, accounts of each of the family's country houses, usually in the order they acquired them, and telling - as far as I can discover the information - the whole story of the house, including its development before the family under consideration acquired it, and after they sold it. For each house, there is a narrative history and a list of the owners as far as I have been able to trace it. Some houses which have been owned at different times by several qualifying families may eventually appear in more than one post (e.g. Linden Hall, which features in the posts of the Adamson and Ames families; or Frickley Hall, which features in the posts on the Anne and Warde-Aldam families).
The final section gives summary biographical and genealogical information about the members of the family who actually owned the estate or parts of it, in the sequence of their ownership. The names indexed on the 'Index to Biographical Entries' page are the names which appear in bold in this section, and who were generally the owners of one of the estates of the family, although where estates have passed from a man to his grandson or great-nephew I have included the intervening generations for comprehensibility. For each individual treated, I aim to provide the following information, where known:
- Parentage, date and place of birth and/or baptism
- Education, including travels on the Grand Tour
- Career - employment, official appointments, offices held, honours
- Personality, where illuminated by memoirs or other evidence, and significant friendships
- Marriage(s) - date, place, name and parentage of spouse(s)
- Children - for each, their dates and places of birth and baptism, marriage, death and burial; the names, covering dates and parentage of their spouse(s), the number and sex of their children; information about their occupation and career, rank and honours
- Key property transactions during the lifetime of the owner and responsibility for work on the house or houses of the family
- Date and place of death and burial; date of probate of will, and value of estate; and similar details for their spouse.
For families with a very complex story, this material may be split over two or even three postings, labelled 'part 1', 'part 2', etc., as, for example, with the Actons of Aldenham, Barons Acton. Each family has been assigned a number, included in the title of the post, which is used for indexing the content of the blog on the index pages.
To avoid any confusion, I should make it plain that the counties referred to in describing the location of properties are those in which the property stood immediately prior to the major shake-up of local government in the mid-20th century (in 1965 around London; in 1974 in the rest of England; and in 1975 in Scotland). Earlier minor boundary changes are ignored; thus Alscot Park is in Warwickshire not Gloucestershire, even though it lay in the latter county until 1931.
I would really welcome any suggestions for improvements in the content or presentation. I am also very keen to receive additional information and images as updates to previous posts, and will incorporate these to ensure that each post remains the most accurate account I can offer of the family and houses concerned. If you are able to help in this way, please post a comment on the relevant post or contact me throught the Contact Form on the blog. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I put a message on Twitter and Facebook as each new post is published.
What's coming next
- Bardwell of Bolton Hall (Yorks ER) [now published]
- Bargrave of Bifrons Place and Eastry Court (Kent) [now published]
- Barham of Hole Park (Kent) [now published]
- Baring of Howick Hall (Northbld), Barons Howick of Glendale [now published]
- Baring of Membland House and Lambay Castle, Barons Revelstoke [now published]
- Baring of Norman Court (Hants) [now published]
- Baring of Stratton Park (Hants), Beaudesert Park (Glos), High Beach (Essex) and Ardington House (Berks), Barons Northbrook
- Baring of The Grange (Hants), Barons Ashburton
- Barker of Brooklands (Derbys)
- Barker of Clare Priory (Suffk)
- Barker of Colehurst Hall (Shropshire)
- Barker (later Raymond-Barker) of Fairford Park (Glos)
- Barker of Gaskyns (Sussex) and Dulas Court (Herefs)
- Barker of Grimston Hall (Suffk), Bocking Hall (Essex) and Kilcooley Abbey (Tipperary)
- Barker (later Sankey-Barker) of Horton (Cheshire), Albrighton Hall and Tong Lodge (Shropshire)
- Barker of Lyndon Hall (Rutland)
- Barker of Stanlake Park (Berks)
- Barkham of South Acre Hall (Norfk) and Wainfleet (Lincs)
List of families considered for inclusion in the blog but not meeting the criteria
Baring of Nubia House (IoW), baronets
Barker of Bushbridge, baronets
Barker of Chesham, Horwood and Southley (Bucks)
Barker of Croboy and Sterling House (Meath)
Barker of The Grange, Bishops Stortford (Herts)
Barker of Hemsby Hall (Norfk)
Barker of Lund Court, Nawton (Yorks NR)
Barker of Mattimore House, Holbeach (Lincs), Needham House (Cambs) and St Germans (Norfk)
Barker of Salt Hill House (Sussex)
Barker of Watchbury House (Warks)
Barklay of Larkbeare (Devon)
Barkesworth of Thormanby (Yorks NR)