Saturday 23 February 2013

(4) Abdy of Albyns, baronets - part 1

Abdy of Felix Hall coat of arms
This post is divided into two parts: this part contains the introduction and an account of the houses owned by the Abdy family; part 2 gives the genealogy of the family.

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

The present house succeeds one occupied by the Abdys from the early 17th century onwards. It was begun c.1710 for Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy as a seven bay house with a pedimented centre, to which wings were added c.1750. Grandiose neo-classical alterations were made c.1825 by Thomas Hopper for C.C. Western of Rivenhall Place. He stuccoed the house, embellished the north-west front with giant Doric pilasters and attached columns, and gave the south-east front a noble Ionic tetrastyle portico, based on the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome. The wings have gone, taken down by Geoffrey Houghton-Brown in 1939, and a year later the remainder was gutted by fire. Houghton-Brown roofed over the northern portion at first-floor level and the same was done to the southern portion by Milner Gray of the Design Research Unit after 1953, leaving the main entrance hall behind the portico open to the sky as a courtyard between two flat-roofed two-storey wings within the shell. Houghton-Brown also converted the mid 18th century rear service wing (now The Orangery) and the stables (now Clock House) in 1939: both have six bays of windows set in arched recesses. Clock House has a central pedimented bay, originally the carriage entrance, with an octagonal domed timber clock tower, copper dome, and domed bell-turret. Humphry Repton was consulted about improvements to the park in 1793, immediately after Western purchased the estate; the winding approach may be due to him.

Felix Hall in 1834. Other images

Previous owners: Crown sold 1539 to Sir John Long; to widow and then daughter Elisabeth, wife of Sir William Russell, Baron Russell of Thornhaugh, who sold to Sir Thomas Cecil... sold 1630 to Anthony Abdy (1579-1640); to son, Sir Thomas Abdy, 1st bt. (1612-86); to son, Sir Anthony Abdy, 2nd bt. (1655-1704); to son, Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy, 3rd bt. (1688-1733); to daughter, Charlotte Maria (d. c.1802), wife of John Williams (later Onslow) (1717-79), who sold to meet his debts by Act of Parliament 1761 to Daniel Matthews (fl. 1761) sold in 1784 after his death to Samuel Tyssen (c.1756-1800); sold 1796 to Charles Callis Western, 1st Baron Western (1767-1844); to cousin, Sir Thomas Burch Western, 1st bt. (1795-1873); to son, Sir Thomas Sutton Western, 2nd bt. (1821-77); to son, Sir Thomas Charles Callis Western, 3rd bt., a lunatic (1850-1912/17); estate sold 1913; house passed to niece, Mrs. Wrightson, wife of Lt-Col. Harry Wrightson (d. 1919), who sold 1923 to Commander Sir Gerald Francis Talbot, kt. (1881-1945); sold 1925 to Capt. H.F. Jackson; sold 1939 to Geoffrey Houghton-Brown (1903-93); who sold 1947... sold 1953 to Milner Gray (d. 1977); to widow, Gnade Gray (d. 2008); for sale 2011 with possibility of reconstruction.

Albyns, Stapleford Abbots, Essex

The east and south ranges of the house built for Sir John Wood after he acquired the estate in 1587 were incorporated into a quadrangular brick house of two storeys and gabled attics built for his son-in-law, Sir Thomas Edmunds, c.1620, which had elaborate plasterwork decoration attributed to James Leigh. The interiors were given additional panelling after Sir Robert Abdy bought the house in 1654, and the house was remodelled in 1754, when it was given bay windows and sash windows with octagonal glazing bars to the designs of Sir Robert Taylor. In 1898-1901 the house was modernised by Nevinson & Newton for Sir William Neville Abdy, but it was thereafter usually let and the Abdys sold up in the 1920s, when many of the fittings were removed to the USA (the Long Gallery is now Jack’s Bar in The Cannery, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco) and the north front was mutilated; then in 1945 the house was damaged by a rocket bomb. It was finally demolished in 1954, when further fittings were relocated. There remains a section of garden wall terminating in a low square pavilion with an ogival roof, and the former service range (now Albyns Manor) that was separated from the house by a yard. This is early 17th century brick, with straight gables and mullioned windows, and has an original northern cross-wing and a 20th century southern cross-wing. This house contains part of the staircase from Albyns, with flat openwork strap decoration and square newels with moulded finials. To the east is an 18th century brick coach-house, built on an H-plan, with clock tower and hexagonal cupola. There is a 19th century octagonal brick lodge to the north-west.

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)

The late 17th century flat-roofed house of the Thomas family was rebuilt or remodelled as a three storey seven bay stuccoed building for Sir William Abdy in the late 18th century.  It was remodelled again for Sir Denis Le Marchant c.1850 with extra detail around the windows, and given large two-storey wings in the 20th century which appear to have been progressively extended.  After conversion to apartments c.2000 the house was removed from the schedule of listed buildings in 2005.  In 1911 the panelling of the dining room was said to be late 17th century.  The remarkable little park laid out by Gainsford Thomas in the early 18th century, like a fragment of Epping Forest, survives and is now a public open space.
Chobham Place in 1824

Chobham Place in 2012

Previous owners:  Anthony Fenrother (fl. late 16th cent.); to daughter, Joan (d. 1638), wife of Samuel Thomas (d. 1573); to son, Sir Anthony Thomas (d. 1641); to son, Anthony Thomas (c.1615-96); to son, Anthony Thomas (c.1680-1701); to brother, Gaisford Thomas (c.1684-1721); to kinsman, Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy, 3rd bt. (1688-1733); to brother, Sir William Abdy, 4th bt. (1689-1750); to son, Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy, 5th bt. (c.1720-75); to brother, Sir William Abdy, 6th bt. (c.1732-1803); to son, Sir William Abdy, 7th bt. (c.1779-1868), who sold 1809 to Rev. Inigo William Jones (1780-1809); to son, Lt-Col. Inigo William Jones jun. (1806-78), who leased 1815-39 to Samuel Thornton MP (d. 1838) and sold 1840 to Sir Denis Le Marchant, 1st bt. (1795-1874); to son, Sir Henry Denis Le Marchant, 2nd bt. (1839-1915); to son, Sir Denis Le Marchant, 3rd bt. (1870-1922); to brother, Sir Edward Thomas Le Marchant (1871-1953); after whose death it was sold in 1959 to Sir William Sydney Albert Atkins (founder of W.S. Atkins Ltd) (1902-89); sold 1991 and 1999 and converted into flats.

Newton Ferrers (Cornwall)

Newton Ferrers in the early 18th century: a drawing by Edmund Prideaux.
The present house dates from c.1695-1701 (the dates of the roofing account) and was built for Sir William Coryton; in its original form it was probably the earliest purely classical house in Cornwall, although in a nod to earlier conventions it was still H-shaped. As built, the house was of two storeys, with a tall basement and an attic, and was constructed of granite.  Part of the earlier manor house was retained as a service wing attached to the west side. The house was recorded in the early 18th century by Edmund Prideaux, who shows the garden front with a segmental pediment over the central bay and dormer windows over the other six bays of the centre and on the wings. This makes a good deal more sense than the rather stark appearance of the building when it was first photographed at the beginning of the 20th century: by that time both the dormers and the segmental pediment had been removed and replaced by a plain hipped roof with wide eaves, a size too large for the house below, and the service wing had been wholly or partly rebuilt.

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 LifeThe 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
The service wing was reduced to rubble, the west range and centre were gutted and most of the 1930s interiors were lost.  When the opportunity arose after the war for restoration, it had to be reconstructed in phases, as building licences permitted. The old service wing was abandoned and was swept away when new kitchens and service areas were created in the basement. The west wing was left unroofed, the central range was given a flat roof, and only the east wing preserved the original form of the hipped roof. To conceal the flat roof on the central block, a parapet was added with a central segmental feature. The form of this may have been suggested by the original segmental pediment of the 1690s, but it spans three bays rather than one and has a decidedly Art Deco feel. Internally, it was not possible to recreate the pre-war plasterwork or panelling; all the impact of the new rooms had to be created through surface decoration. Thus the drawing room was painted in trompe l'oeil with porphyry columns, and blackamoors were cut out of paper and stuck onto the walls between the windows. The dining room walls were also painted in trompe l'oeil to look like fabric, while the elaborate curtains were dyed silk parachutes lined with dyed dust sheets hung from gilded drain pipes used as curtain poles! The hall and ante room were both painted to represent marble. Much of this work was done by Lady Diana Abdy herself. 

Newton Ferrers: garden front in 1970 with the Art Deco parapet added by Sir Robert Abdy concealing the post-war flat roof.
Image: University of Exeter Penryn Campus: Charles Woolf Slide Collection ICS12/13323.
Reproduced with permission. © Estate of Charles Woolf. 

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.


Country Life, 27 May 1976, p. 1430; J. Kenworthy-Browne et al., Burke's & Savill's Guide to Country Houses: vol. 3, East Anglia, 1981, pp. 35, 51; J. Bettley & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Essex, 3rd edn., 2007, pp. 512-13; VCH Essex, vol. 4, 1956, pp. 223-28; Sir H.M. Colvin, Biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840, 4th edn., 2008, p. 1027;;

Revision and acknowledgements

This account was first published 23 February 2013 and was revised 11 May 2014, 14 October 2015, 15 September 2018 and 9 December 2021. I am grateful to Richard Garnier for a correction.


  1. My name is Lachlan John Abdy is there any chance this is my lineage

    1. The only way to find out for sure is to trace your ancestry backwards and see whether it connects up with the people mentioned here. Abdy is an unusual name and seems originally to have been given to people who came from the hamlet of Abdy at Wath-upon-Dearne (Yorks WR), so they are not necessarily all related.

    2. The only way to find out for sure is to trace your ancestry backwards and see whether it connects up with the people mentioned here. Abdy is an unusual name and seems originally to have been given to people who came from the hamlet of Abdy at Wath-upon-Dearne (Yorks WR), so they are not necessarily all related.


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.