|Abdy of Felix Hall coat of arms|
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the family lived at Abdy at Wath-upon-Dearne (Yorks). In the later 16th century they became London merchants and the sons of Roger Abdy (d. 1595) moved into the professions and began the transition to gentry status and land ownership. Edmund Abdy (1561-1626) acquired the manor of Belgar in Kent and his son, Sir Christopher Abdy (c.1598-1679) added to this property at Streatham (Surrey) and Uxbridge (Middx) which he bequeathed to his cousin, Sir Thomas Abdy of Felix Hall (Essex). Edmund’s younger brother, Anthony Abdy (1579-1640), a clothworker and East India merchant, bought Felix Hall, Kelvedon (Essex) and other property in Essex and Middlesex which he bequeathed among his sons, three of whom became baronets. Sir Thomas Abdy (1612-86), the eldest son, inherited Felix Hall; Sir Robert Abdy (1616-70) first rented and later bought Albyns, Stapleford Abbots (Essex) and adjacent manors; and Sir John Abdy (1617-62) inherited the manor of Moores at Salcot (Essex), but dying without issue, bequeathed this too to his brother Robert.
From the mid 17th century there were thus two branches of the family, settled respectively at Felix Hall and Albyns. Sir Robert Abdy, the younger brother, remodelled and improved Albyns, and bequeathed it to his son, Sir John Abdy (c1643-91). His heir, who inherited aged 3, was Sir Robert Abdy (1688-1748), MP for Essex, 1727-48 and an active Jacobite. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and was described by Morant in his History of Essex as “a man of deep knowledge in antiquity and natural history, [and] a great connoisseur in medals, of which he had a fine collection”. At his death he was succeeded by his son Sir John Abdy (c.1714-59), who employed Sir Robert Taylor to remodel Albyns, probably after seeing his distant cousin, Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy's, house in Lincolns Inn Fields, which Taylor designed in the 1750s. At Sir John’s death in 1759, however, he was unmarried: the baronetcy became extinct and the Albyns estate passed first to his aunt, Jane Crank (d. 1767), then to Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy (d. 1775), who briefly united the estates of both branches of the family.
Sir Thomas Abdy of Felix Hall, although educated as a gentleman (he travelled in France and Italy, 1632-5), practised as a lawyer. His son, Sir Anthony (1655-1704), married the grand-daughter and eventual heiress of Sir Anthony Thomas (d. 1641) of Chobham (Surrey), a match which in the 1720s brought his son, Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy (1688-1733) both Chobham Place and the Horselydown estate at Rotherhithe on the south bank of the Thames. Sir A.T. Abdy, again a working lawyer, bequeathed his Essex estates to his two daughters, and the Chobham and Rotherhithe properties to his younger brother and heir, Sir William Abdy (1689-1750). Felix Hall passed to Charlotte Abdy (1723-1802), wife of John Williams Onslow of Tendring Hall (Essex). They partially rebuilt the house but got into debt, and both Felix Hall and Tendring Hall were sold by Act of Parliament in 1761.
Sir William (d. 1750) and his son, Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy (d. 1775) seem both to have lived mainly in London, where in the 1750s the latter employed Sir Robert Taylor to design him a grand house at 36 Lincolns Inn Fields. Sir William is known to have been active in the Jacobite cause, and both men acted as legal agents for prominent Jacobite figures. They developed the Horselydown estate, which became a major source of the family’s wealth by the later 18th century. Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy (d. 1775) eventually overcame official suspicion about his Jacobite sympathies and was MP for Knaresborough, 1763-75. In the 1760s he inherited a life interest in the estates of the Albyns branch of the family, and he also inherited Twickenham Park (Middx) under the will of Diana, Countess of Mountrath (d. 1766). At his death, the Albyns estate passed to his nephew, Thomas Abdy Rutherforth (1755-98); his other property passed to his younger brother, Sir William Abdy (c1732-1803), who rebuilt Chobham Place but whose son and heir, Sir William Abdy (c1779-1868) sold the estate in 1809. He married Anne Wellesley (d. 1842), an illegitimate daughter of the 1st Marquess Wellesley, from whom he was divorced by Act of Parliament in 1816, and dying without legitimate issue, the baronetcy of Felix Hall became extinct.
The Rev. Thomas Abdy Rutherforth (1755-98) took the name Abdy on inheriting the Albyns estate in 1775, and bequeathed the property to his son, John Rutherforth Abdy, who married the eldest daughter of James Hatch of Clayberry Hall (Essex) and sometimes used the name Hatch-Abdy. He carried out a number of estate improvements and may have employed Humphry Repton to remodel the grounds of Albyns, as the house was depicted by Repton in Peacock’s Polite Repository in 1801. Hatch-Abdy had no children, and at his death the Albyns estate passed to his nephew, Thomas Neville Abdy (1810-77) who was MP for Lyme Regis, 1847-52 and was created a baronet in 1850. The manor of Theydon Garnons was sold to T.C. Chisenhale-Marsh of Gaynes Park in 1858, but at the death of his kinsman, Sir William Abdy, in 1868, Sir Thomas inherited the Horselydown property in London, which was now a highly profitable area of warehouses and industry on the south side of the River Thames. After his death, the estate passed to his eldest son, Sir William Neville Abdy (1844-1910), who died childless, and then in quick succession to Sir Anthony Sykes Abdy (1848-1921) and Sir Henry Beadon Abdy (1853-1921). Sir Henry’s eldest surviving son and heir was Sir Robert Henry Edward Abdy (1896-1976), who sold the Albyns estate in 1926. Some of the interiors were later moved to the United States, and the house itself was damaged by bombing in World War II and finally demolished in 1954. Sir Robert bought Newton Ferrers (Cornw) in 1936 and redecorated it in a sharply fashionable Art Deco style, but the house was burnt in 1940 and not fully restored thereafter. Sir Henry’s son, Sir Valentine Abdy (1937-2012), sold Newton Ferrers in the 1990s and lived mainly in France, as does the present baronet, Sir Robert Etienne Eric Abdy, 7th bt. (b. 1978).
Felix Hall, Kelvedon, Essex
|Felix Hall in an engraving of 1773 from A new display of the beauties of England|
|Felix Hall in 1834. ancestryimages.com. Other images|
Albyns, Stapleford Abbots, Essex
|Albyns, c.1920. © English Heritage|
Previous owners: Crown sold 1548 to Walter Cely (d. 1549); to widow and then son, George Cely (b. c.1546), who sold 1570 to George Wiseman; gave to daughter, Anne, wife of William Fitch (d. 1578); to widow and then son, Francis Fitch (fl. 1587), who sold 1587 to Sir John Wood, kt., clerk of the signet (d. c.1611); gave 1610 to daughter Magdalen (d. 1614), wife of Sir Thomas Edmunds, kt., diplomat (d. 1639), who gave it 1636 to his daughter Isabella (fl. 1653), widow of Henry West, 4th Baron de la Warre (1603-28); she sold 1653 in satisfaction of debts and interest to Hugh, 1st Baron Coleraine (1606-67), who sold 1654 to tenant, Sir Robert Abdy, 1st bt. (1616-70); to son, Sir John Abdy, 2nd bt. (c.1643-91); to son, Sir Robert Abdy, 3rd bt. (1688-1748); to son, Sir John Abdy, 4th bt. (c.1714-59); to aunt, Jane (d. c.1765), widow of Rev. Edward Crank and then to Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy, 5th bt. (c. 1720-75) and then to Thomas Abdy Rutherforth (later Abdy) (1755-98); to son, John Rutherforth Abdy (c.1779-1840); to nephew, Sir Thomas Neville Abdy, 1st bt. (1810-77); to son, Sir William Neville Abdy, 2nd bt. (1844-1910); to brother, Sir Anthony Charles Sykes Abdy, 3rd bt. (1848-1921); to brother, Sir Henry Beadon Abdy, 4th bt. (1853-1921); to son, Sir Robert Henry Edward Abdy, 5th bt. (1896-1976), who sold 1926 to an American; sold to Mr Veryard; sold by 1929 to F.G. Mitchell (fl. 1939); sold c.1946 to W.H. Twyneham (fl. 1956), who demolished most of the house, 1954.
Chobham Place (Surrey)
|Chobham Place in 1824|
|Chobham Place in 2012|
Newton Ferrers (Cornwall)
|Newton Ferrers in the early 18th century: a drawing by Edmund Prideaux.|
|Newton Ferrers, from an early 20th century postcard|
These changes probably dated from a restoration of the house in the 1880s for Digby Collins, and its appearance at this time was captured in photographs published in 1904 in Country Life. The south-facing garden front is of eleven bays and symmetrical, with two bay projections at either end. In the centre is an entrance flanked by granite chamfered rusticated pilasters with tall moulded bases, decorated capitals and a moulded cornice. The east-facing entrance front had a central porte-cochere, enclosed in c.1970 to form a porch. The north side of the house was originally symmetrical with two short projecting wings, but only that on the east survived by the early 20th century. In the centre of the north front is a segmental gabled chimneystack with an open pediment in relief; a carved panel on the piano nobile contains the arms of the De Ferrers family.
In 1934 the house was sold to Sir Robert Abdy (1896-1976), 5th bt., who redecorated the interior in 1934-36. Without there being a single Modernist feature introduced, the combined effect of the cool, French-influenced and simplified decorative effects is to strongly convey a period flavour. The new interiors were recorded by Country Life, which is fortunate as in 1940 the house was badly damaged by fire.
|Newton Ferrers: press report of the fire in 1940|
In 1994-97 the ruinous west wing was reinstated and the rest of the house was meticulously restored to its late 17th century form for Andrew and Darcie Baylis. The central entrance on the south side leads into the saloon which occupies the whole of the centre of the house. A second entrance, at basement level on the east front, leads into a staircase hall, with a staircase up to the principal rooms. The hall has two large marbled columns (a survival from the 1930s interiors) and bolection-moulded panelling. A secondary staircase was re-created, modelled on one at Powderham Castle (Devon), and incorporates elements of the handrail of the original, lost in the 1940 fire. It has square newels, carved balusters, and a ramped handrail. The east wing retains high quality 17th century panelling and plain marble chimneypieces. The ante room has complete bolection moulded panelling with marbled veined ribs and a heavy late 17th century cornice, and gives access to the library on the south east and a bedroom on the north east. The decorative details from these rooms have been replicated in the restoration of the rest of the house.
Outside the entrance front are the remains of square granite piers, ball finials and square balusters which originally adorned the entrance court. A 17th century terrace stands between the wings of the south front, with an intact contemporary balustrade with bulbous granite balusters, supported by stone rubble retaining walls. This and the further terraces below were reputedly designed by ‘an Italian’.
Previous owners: John de Ferrers; to daughter, Isolda (fl. 1314), wife of Jeffery Coryton of Coryton (Devon); to son, William Coryton; to son, William Coryton; to son, Edward Coryton (fl. 1435); to son, John Coryton; to son, Richard Coryton; to son, Peter Coryton (fl. c.1540); to son, Richard Coryton (murdered 1565); to son, Peter Coryton (d. 1602); to son, William Coryton (1579-1651); to son, Sir John Coryton, 1st bt. (1621-80); to son, Sir John Coryton, 2nd bt. (1648-90); to brother, Sir William Coryton, 3rd bt. (1650-1711); to son, Sir John Coryton, 4th bt. (1690-1739); to widow, Dame Rachel Helyar ...Weston Helyar (fl. 1791-98)... Edward Helyar (d. 1831); William Helyar of Coker Court (Somerset) who sold 1834 to Edward Collins (1782-1855) of Truthen, St. Erme (Cornwall); to son, Edward Collins (b. 1833); to brother, Digby Collins (1836-1916); to ?son, Thurstan Collins (1858-1924); sold 1930 to George Arbrouin Burnett; sold 1934 to Sir Robert Abdy, 5th bt. (1896-1976); to son, Sir Valentine Robert Duff Abdy, 6th bt. (1937-2012), who sold 1994 to Andrew & Darcie Baylis.