Sunday 10 March 2013

(13) Ackers of Huntley Manor, formerly of Prinknash Park

Ackers coat of arms
This branch of the Ackers family descended from James Ackers (1752-1824) of Lark Hill House, Salford (see the previous post).  His illegitimate son, James Ackers (1811-68) was MP for Ludlow in 1841-47 and lived at Heath House, Leintwardine (Herefs).  In the year of his retirement as an MP he purchased Prinknash Park (Glos) from the Howell family.  His son, Benjamin St. John Ackers (1839-1915) improved the older parts of the house and added a new wing before selling the property in 1888.  Four years earlier he had bought Huntley Manor from the Probyn family, perhaps because he was trying to get elected as MP for West Gloucestershire and wanted a home in the constituency; this became the family seat for the next century.  In 1960 the estate passed to Mrs. Torill Freeman, who reduced the size of the house in 1963-64 but retained it until 1988, when she sold it to Mr. Richard Gabriel, while retaining much of the estate.

Heath House, Leintwardine (Herefordshire)

An account of this house is given in my post on the Beale family of Heath House.

Prinknash Park (Gloucestershire)

The Prinknash estate was given to Gloucester Abbey by the Giffards of Brimpsfield in 1096, and there seems to have been a house here from at least the early 14th century.  Licence was granted in 1339 for mass to be said in an oratory at Prinknash, and in 1355 the abbot was granted free warren on his lands here.  There was also a medieval deer park, which was almost perfectly circular. 

Prinknash Park from the east, showing Abbot Parker’s hall range of c.1500-25 in the centre; the chapel to the right; and the south-east range extended in 1868 on the left. © Nicholas Kingsley, 1985. 

Parts of the south wing of the house adjoining the central range have very thick walls and may date from as early as the 14th century, but the earliest visible features of the present building would seem to be no earlier than c.1500-25, when Abbot William Parker developed Prinknash as a country residence.  Since then, Prinknash has been altered extensively in every century and, although the impression given by the house is predominantly 16th and 17th century, much of the detail, and indeed of the fabric, is later.  In form, the house is now an irregular H-shape.  Abbot Parker's central block runs roughly north-south, and wings project from it to east and west at either end.  The entrance front is to the west, and a porch of c.1630 gives access to the hall on this side.  No doubt there was formerly a screens passage at this point, and the hall to its north was probably originally two storeys high.  To the south on the ground floor lie the old service rooms; above them, and reached by a staircase behind the hall, was the great chamber, later used as a drawing room.  This is a fine square room with mullioned windows containing arched-headed lights.  The south-west wing, which may originally have been the solar wing, consists of a single room on each floor, the upper of which has an early 16th century oriel window with a fan vault inside, looking down into the western courtyard of the house.  The south-east wing is much the longest of the four, and was constructed in two phases.  The part nearest the hall block is contemporary with it, and has a stone bas-relief portrait of a young man, claimed to be Henry VIII, set in the wall.  This range was extended, probably by Ewan Christian, as a nursery wing in 1868.  The chapel occupies the north-east wing, added to the house in 1628-29.  It was restored by Hamilton & Medland in 1847-50 and later extended by F.W. Waller in the Decorated style in 1888, with a bellcote and apsed sanctuary.  The large north transept was added for the monks of Prinknash by H.S. Goodhart-Rendel in 1955-56.  The north-west wing was rebuilt in c.1770-80 for John Howell, and retains some 18th century panelled rooms, although some of its sash windows were replaced by mullioned and transomed ones as early as c.1825 .  The alteration to the north-west wing had probably been completed by 1774, when Horace Walpole found that Prinknash "stands on a glorious, but impracticable hill, in the midst of a little forest of beech, and commanding Elysium.  The house is small, but has good rooms, and though modernised here and there, not extravagantly". 

A modern watercolour of Prinknash 'commanding Elysium' © Prinknash Abbey
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Crown first let Prinknash to Sir Anthony Kingston, and in 1544 granted it to Edmund Brydges on the occasion of his marriage to Dorothy Bray; both the Brydges and Bray families had performed loyal service to the Tudors.  Sir Edmund Brydges succeeded his father in 1557 as Lord Chandos of Sudeley, and thenceforward Sudeley Castle became the family's principal seat.  Prinknash was surplus to requirements, and Grey, 5th Lord Chandos sold the freehold in the early 17th century.  In 1628, the property was purchased by Sir John Bridgeman and his son George.  Sir John, whose wife was a Daunt of Owlpen Manor, had recently become Recorder of Gloucester and wanted a seat in the vicinity of the city.  The Bridgemans carried out the 17th century remodelling of Prinknash, not only adding the porch and chapel, but also dividing the hall horizontally and constructing a fine panelled room with a wooden overmantel known as the Justice Room above it, and installing two splendid stone chimneypieces in the library and drawing room.  These chimneypieces, which were fortunately photographed in 1906, were altered in the 18th century.  That formerly in the library had some affinities with the one in the Great Chamber at Lasborough Manor, and derived from a design in Jacob Floris' Compertimentorum quod vocant multiplex genus, 1566. 

Prinknash: former library chimneypiece in 1906
Prinknash: former drawing room chimneypiece in 1906

The use of designs from Floris is tentatively linked by Dr. Wells-Cole to the workshop of William Arnold, a master-mason with an extensive practice in south-west England.  The chimneypiece from the drawing room was very similar to the hall chimneypiece at Misarden Park and included the arms of the Daunt and de Olepenne families of Owlpen, as well as those of the Bridgemans.  George Bridgeman, a passionate Royalist, was killed at the siege of Cirencester in 1643 and, later the same year, Prinknash was occupied by Royalist troops, one of whom left a scratched portrait of a Cavalier on the reveal of an attic window.  The house then descended in the Bridgeman family until 1770, when Henry Troye Bridgeman sold Prinknash to John Howell, who built or rebuilt the north-west wing.  He also landscaped the medieval deer park in 1775 to the designs of a surveyor called Armitage. who is otherwise unknown; his plan is in Birmingham City Archives. 

Prinknash Park: landscaping plan, 1775. © Birmingham Archives & Heritage Service
In 1847 the house was purchased by James Ackers, and he and his son, Benjamin St. John Ackers, did much restoration and improvement work, including the lengthening of the south-east wing.  Ewan Christian was employed on the house over several years, and the alterations he made in 1875 alone cost nearly £7,000.  In 1884 Benjamin, who became M.P. for West Gloucestershire the following year, bought Huntley Manor (which lay in his prospective constituency), and three years later he sold Prinknash to Thomas Dyer-Edwardes.  Dyer-Edwardes employed F.W. Waller to rebuild the stables, enlarge the chapel, replace the staircase, and carry out other alterations in 1888-92, and in 1913 brought in J. Coates Carter to make further changes to the chapel and to construct the forecourt walls and gates.  He also laid out the long avenue in the park from Upton St. Leonards through to the Portway.  Dyer-Edwardes, who became a Catholic in 1924, offered the estate to the Benedictine monks of Caldey Island, but before the gift could take effect he died, and it was left to his grandson, the 20th Earl of Rothes, to honour his wish and complete the transfer. 

Unfortunately, in order to meet the death duties on the estate, the Earl had to sell the contents and many of the fittings of the house.  The panelling of the Justice Room, Abbot Parker’s Oak Room, the Guests’ Room and a drawing room of c.1725 were all sold, together with the important drawing room and library chimneypieces.  16th century heraldic glass from the drawing room was bought by subscription and installed in the cloister of Gloucester Cathedral.  The panelling from the Justice Room went a museum in St. Louis, but was found on closer examination to consist of work of several different dates, and in 1987 was sold to the American collector Frederich Koch, who installed it at Sutton Place in Surrey.  The drawing room chimneypiece was sold by White Allom to William Randolph Hearst for £9,245, and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, although not on display; could it perhaps be returned one day?.  The present whereabouts of the other rooms from the house are not known.  The monks moved to Prinknash in 1928 and at first lived in the house, but during the 1930s plans were drawn up by H.S. Goodhart-Rendel for a new abbey a short distance away.  War interrupted progress on this shortly after work had started, and between 1941 and 1953 a low and unsightly concrete extension on the north-west of the old house was put up by the monks themselves as a temporary expedient.  The new abbey buildings were not finally completed, to different designs, until 1972, and the planned abbey church was never built.  With a reduction in the size of the community in recent years, the monks have returned to St Peter's Grange, as the old house is now called, and the community's purpose-built buildings are to be converted into a retirement village.

Descent: Abbots of Gloucester to 1540; surrendered to Crown, which leased to Sir Anthony Kingston and granted it 1544 to Edmund Brydges, 2nd Baron Chandos of Sudeley (c.1520-73); to son, Giles Brydges, 3rd Baron Chandos of Sudeley (1548-94); to brother, William Brydges, 4th Baron Chandos of Sudeley (c.1550-1602); to son, Grey Brydges, 5th Baron Chandos of Sudeley (c.1580-1621); who sold...sold 1628 to Sir John Bridgeman (1568/9-1638); to son, George Bridgeman; to son John Bridgeman (fl. 1666); to son, John Bridgeman (c.1655-1729); to solicitor, Henry Toye (later Bridgeman) (fl. 1770); sold 1770 to John Howell (d. 1815); to Thomas Bayley Howell (1767-1815); to son, Thomas Jones Howell (1793-1858), who sold 1847 to James Ackers (1811-68); to son, Benjamin St. John Ackers (1839-1915), who sold 1887 to Thomas Dyer-Edwardes (1847-1926); to grandson, Malcolm George Dyer Edwardes Leslie, 20th Earl of Rothes (1902-75); who gave c.1928 to Caldey Abbey for monastic purposes.

Huntley Manor (Gloucestershire)

The manor of Huntley belonged in the early 18th century to Henry, Duke of Kent (d. 1740), who sold it to Sir Edmund Probyn.  His descendant, another Edmund Probyn, leased it in the mid 19th century to the Rev. Daniel Capper, who was rector of Huntley from 1839 to 1866.   In the early 1860s Capper employed Samuel Sanders Teulon simultaneously on three significant building projects: the rebuilding of the church and village at Hunstanworth (Co. Durham) where he was the major landowner; the rebuilding of the church at Huntley; and in 1862-63 the building of Huntley Manor as a new rectory house.  It is not known how Capper came to choose Teulon as an architect. 

Huntley Manor before the demolition of the service wing in 1964.

Huntley Manor, c.1985.  Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.
Huntley Manor is one of the series of rather wayward country houses which Teulon designed.  Reputedly, the French ch√Ęteau style was chosen because Capper’s French wife was homesick for her native land.  The steeply-pitched turreted mansard roof (originally with a polychrome slate pattern, since altered in roof repairs) and the verticality of the end elevation certainly fit that story, but the sash windows with simple keyed surrounds, the tall dormers and the whitewashed external render (over brick) derive more from Scotland than from France, and the western service end of the building is hardly Gothic at all.  This initial dichotomy has been further confused by an assortment of later additions, mostly affecting the long south side elevation.  Even more stylistically perplexing is the north entrance, where the Gothic porch-hood is flanked by round-arched windows, with a vernacular timber oriel window above, which has a small round window niche on either side.  Despite this, the overall effect, whilst original in the extreme, is somehow coherent, and the spiky roofscape blends well with the conifers in the grounds.  Teulon’s stylistic mixture continues internally, although there are some typically fine Gothic fireplaces of original ‘muscular’ character, especially that in the dining room.  Much of what appears to be an early, if not original, decorative scheme seems to have survived at least until 1964.  The ceilings in the principal rooms have timber ribs and small bosses, and a window on the main staircase has armorial stained glass.  In 1866 Capper exchanged the house for other property owned by Edmund Probyn, who moved into the house and renamed it Huntley Manor. 

The Probyns sold the Huntley estate in 1884 to Benjamin St. John Ackers of Prinknash Park, who became M.P. for West Gloucestershire in 1885 and may have wanted a seat in his prospective constituency.  He altered the house a number of times during the next thirty years to provide further specialist rooms, and enlarge the servants’ quarters.  F.W. Waller made the first changes in 1885, and very helpfully arranged to borrow and copy the original plans for the house as a basis for his own proposals.  A new servants’ hall was built as a single-storey extension on the north side of the house, to the right of, and overlooking, the main entrance.  The old servants’ hall, occupying a rather good position on the south side of the house, became the gun room.  Later work was done by Walter B. Wood, formerly Waller’s clerk of works.  In 1891 he added a billiard room adjacent to the gun room, and before 1923 a smoking room, again nearby.  In the grounds, the east lodge, on the Newent road, was designed by Wood in 1923-4, and the south lodge was added in the late 1940s by his successors, Stratton Davis & Yates.  Benjamin Ackers had bought an estate of 1100 acres in 1884, and his son, Major Charles Penryn Ackers, who inherited in 1915, acquired a further 700 acres of woodland in Newent before the First World War.  The purchase of woodland at Blaisdon in the early 1930s brought the estate to about 2000 acres, which passed to his daughter Torill in 1960.  She and her husband, Mike Freeman executed a sensitive reduction scheme at the house in 1963-4 to the designs of Sir Percy Thomas & Partners, removing many of the accretions to the house, and largely returning it to its mid 19th century appearance.  In 1988, Mrs. Freeman sold Huntley Manor to Mr Richard Gabriel, while retaining much of the estate.  He constructed an indoor swimming pool and a helicopter hangar in the grounds, and sold the property in 2004 to the right-wing economic commentator, Professor Tim Congdon.

Descent: Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent (d. 1740); sold 1720s to Sir Edmund Probyn, kt. (d. 1742); to nephew, John Hopkins (later Probyn) (d. 1773); to son, Edmund Probyn (d. 1819); to son, Very Rev. John Probyn (d. 1843); to son, John Probyn (d. 1863), who gave it in 1855 to his son Edmund Probyn (d. 1890), who leased it to Rev. Daniel Capper and sold 1884 to Benjamin St. John Ackers (1839-1915); to son, Maj. Charles Penrhyn Ackers (1884-1960); to daughter, Mrs. Torill Freeman (b. 1946), who sold 1988 to Richard G. Gabriel; who sold 2004 to Prof. Tim Congdon (b. 1951).

Ackers family of Huntley Manor and formerly of Prinknash Park

Ackers, James (1811-68) of Prinknash Park (Glos).  Apparently the illegitimate son of James Ackers (1752-1824) (for whom see the previous post) of Lark Hill, Salford (Lancs) and Putney (Surrey) and Ann Coops (c.1781-1870), the wife of James Coops; born in Salford, 4 August 1811.  Educated at Manchester Grammar School, Marlborough and Trinity Coll, Cambridge (matriculated 1829; LLB 1836; LLM 1861); assumed by sign manual the surname Ackers, in lieu of Coops, on inheriting a large fortune from James Ackers esq. of Larkhill, Salford (Lancs) in 1827; JP for Herefordshire; Conservative MP for Ludlow 1841-47.  Married 9 January 1832/33 Mary (d.  17 December 1848), dau of Benjamin Williams of Bowden Lodge (Cheshire) and had issue:
(1) James Ackers (1836-59), dsp; educated at Rugby and St John’s College, Oxford (matric. 1854);
(2) Benjamin St. John Ackers (1839-1915) (q.v.)
Lived at Heath House, Leintwardine (Herefs) until in 1847 he purchased the Prinknash Park estate from the Howell family.
He died 27 September 1868, aged 57 and was buried at Upton St. Leonards; will proved 23 November 1868; effects under £60,000.

Ackers, Benjamin St. John (1839-1915) of Huntley Manor (Glos). Second, but only surviving, son of James Ackers (1811-68) and his wife Mary, dau of Benjamin Williams of Bowden Lodge (Cheshire); born 6 November 1839.  Educated at Rugby, St John’s College, Oxford and Lincolns Inn (admitted 1861; called to bar 1865).  Conservative MP for West Gloucestershire, March-November 1885; unsuccessfully contested Gloucester, 1880 and Thornbury, November 1885; DL for Glos 1903; campaigner for the education of the deaf; feoffee of the manor of Upton St. Leonards.  He married 24 October 1861 Louisa Maria Jane (d. 1915), dau of Charles Brooke Hunt of Bowden Hall (Glos) and had issue:
(1) Edith Jane Ackers (1869-1930), born 22 March 1869; rendered deaf by illness at age of three months; d. unm. 28 December 1930; will proved at London, 18 March 1931;
(2) James Arthur Ackers (1873-88), dsp; born 18 Sept 1873; died in Algiers, 22 February 1888, aged 14; buried at Huntley (Glos);
(3) Mary Ackers (b. 1876; fl. 1955), born 3 March 1876; Christian missionary in Mino, Japan, 1933-34;
(4) Louisa Ackers (1877-1965), born 21 May 1877; d. unm. Apr-June 1965 at Newton Abbot (Devon)
(5) Susan Elizabeth Ackers (1879-1959), born 5 March 1879; d. unm. Jan-Mar 1959 at Cheltenham
(6) Florence Ackers (1880-1955), born 2 November 1880; d. unm. 5 March 1955 at Cambridge
(7) Charles Penrhyn Ackers (1882-1960) (q.v.);
(8) Catherine Victoria Isabel Ackers (1886-1962), born 13 September 1886; d. unm. Jan-Mar 1962 at Exmoor (Somerset)
In 1868 he inherited Prinknash Park (Glos) from his father, and he subsequently employed Ewan Christian to remodel it.  However, in 1884, he purchased Huntley Manor and in 1887 he sold Prinknash Park. His London home in 1885 was at 5 Prince of Wales Terrace, W.
He died 18 April 1915.  His wife died 26 August 1915.

Ackers, Maj. Charles Penrhyn (1882-1960) of Huntley Manor (Glos). Second, but only surviving son of Benjamin St. John Ackers (1839-1915) and his wife Louisa Maria Jane (d. 1915), dau of Charles Brooke Hunt of Bowden Hall (Glos); born 28 June 1882.  Educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford (MA 1908), Durham Univ (BSc 1906).  Served in WW1 as Major, Mech. Transport, RASC.  Appointed JP for Gloucestershire 1909 and High Sheriff of Gloucestershire 1927; Verderer of the Forest of Dean 1930-60; President of the Royal Forestry Society of England & Wales 1930-32; Director of Oriental Telephone and Electric Co; author of Practical British Forestry, 1938.  He was appointed OBE in 1951. He married 1st, 6 July 1922, Dorothy Jane (d. 1943/44), dau of W.S. Davis of Coglan House, Longhope (Glos) and 2nd, 8 March 1946, Gully Gudny Elinor, dau of Trygve Ronneberg of Sauda (Norway) and widow of Evelyn Bentinck Martin, and had issue:
(1.1) Robert David Ackers (1923-44); served in WW2 as Pilot Officer (RAF), killed in action, 18 August 1944; dsp;
(2.1) Mary Torill Ackers (later Freeman) (b. 1946), married Michael Freeman and had issue two sons;
(2.2) Helen Solveig Ackers (b. 1948); born 13 October 1948.
He inherited Huntley Manor from his father in 1915 and expanded the estate to around 2000 with the purchase of additional woodland.  At his death the estate passed to his elder surviving daughter.
He died 1 November 1960.  His second wife had two daughters before her marriage to Ackers, who took the surname Ackers in 1947.

Burke’s Landed Gentry, 1952; C.J. Robinson, A history of the mansions and manors of Herefordshire, reprint of 1872 edn, 2001, p. 195; W. Bazeley, History of Prinknash Park, 1890; C.B. Lucas (ed.), Letters of Horace Walpole, 1904, p. 560; RCHM, An inventory of the historical monuments in Herefordshire, vol. 3: North-West, 1934, pl. 133; [M. Kuhn-Regnier], The old house: St Peter's Grange, Prinknash - a history, 1987; A. Wells-Cole, Art and decoration in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, 1997, pp. 55, 307; D. Verey & A. Brooks, The buildings of England: Gloucestershire - The Cotswolds, 1999, pp. 568-69; N.W. Kingsley, The country houses of Gloucestershire, vol. 1, 1500-1660, 2nd edn., 2001, pp. 165-68; N.W. Kingsley & M. Hill, The country houses of Gloucestershire, vol. 3, 1830-2000, 2001, pp. 167-69; J. Harris, Moving Rooms, 2007, pp. 181-83, 228, 238; VCH Gloucestershire, vol. 12, 2010, pp. 181-82; A. Brooks & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Herefordshire, 2nd edn., 2012, p. 441.

Where are their papers?
Ackers of Huntley Manor: trust deeds, 1847-89 [Gloucestershire Archives, D1868].  Additional papers may remain in private hands.

Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published 10 March 2013, and was updated 28-29 December 2021.

1 comment:

  1. my grandad was called robert ackers matley and was from salford


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.