Monday, 26 August 2013

(67) Aitchison of Lemmington Hall and Coupland Castle, baronets

Sir Stephen Harry Aitchison (1863-1942) was an employee who married the daughter of Walter de Lancey Willson (d. 1907) of Kirklinton Park (Cumbld), the founder of the northern grocery supermarket chain, Walter Wilson Ltd, and inherited the business; he was knighted in 1928 and given a baronetcy in 1938.  The firm remained in the hands of the family until the last 48 stores were sold to Alldays in 1998.  In 1913 Aitchison bought the ruined shell of Lemmington Hall (Northbld) and by 1916 had restored it as a country house.  His son, Sir Walter de Lancey Aitchison, 2nd bt. (1892-1953), bought Coupland Castle (Northbld) in 1938.  In 1947, having inherited Lemmington but preferring to live at Coupland, he lent Lemmington to the Convent of the Sacred Heart.  His widow continued to live at Coupland until her death in 1972. Sir Stephen Charles de Lancey Aitchison, 3rd bt. (1923-58) having shot himself soon after his wife left him (whether accidentally or on purpose was not clear), her heir was the present baronet, Sir Charles Walter de Lancey Aitchison, 4th bt. (b. 1951), who sold Coupland by 1979.  When the convent moved out of Lemmington Hall in the 1990s he recovered possession of the house and it was used for some time for the storage of a collection of architectural salvage materials, but later sold.  For some years in the 1990s and 2000s he lived at  Park House, Barbon (Westmld) (formerly Underfell), but by 2006 this too had been sold.

Lemmington Hall, Northumberland

Lemmington Hall. Image: Nicholas Kingsley.  Licenced under a Creative Commons licence.

A mid 18th century country house altered towards the end of the 18th century by William Newton.  By the end of the 19th century the house had become a roofless ruin.  It was bought in 1913 by Sir Stephen Aitchison and restored in 1913-16.  The south front has nine bays and a projecting centre bay with a Venetian doorway under a tripartite window and pediment.  The two bays at either end are set slightly back; it is not apparent that those at the right end are the refaced south wall of a 15th century L-plan tower house.  From the rear the tower house is more apparent, although the traceried windows and embattled parapet are all early 20th century.  Inside, the basement barrel vault and part of the newel stair of the tower survive.  The first floor of the tower is a chapel, with panelling from the chateau at Bar-le-Duc.  The remainder of the house is mostly early 20th century inside, with older material from Camelford House, Park Lane, London (stair balustrades, door surrounds etc.).  The house was a convent from 1947 to the 1990s, but has since been restored as a private house.  
Lemmington Hall: the Felbridge column.  Image: Nicholas Kingsley.  Licenced under a Creative Commons licence.

In the grounds, half a mile south of the hall is a column of 1786 by Sir John Soane, commemorating the parents of James Evelyn, a distant relative of the diarist.  It was originally erected at Felbridge Park in Surrey and was brought to Lemmington as an ornament in 1928.

Descent: Sir James Clavering of Axwell Park, 2nd bt. (1668-1707); to daughter, Elizabeth Clavering (1692-1732), second wife of Nicholas Fenwick MP (c.1693-1752); to son, Robert Fenwick (1714-1802); to son, Nicholas Fenwick (1750-1823) who let to Sanderson Ilderton;  sold 1825 to William Pawson of Shawdon Hall, who let to John Allan Wilkie (fl. 1839) and the Misses Davidson (fl. 1855)... sold 1913 to Sir Stephen Aitchison, 1st bt. (1863-1942); to son, Sir Walter de Lancey Aitchison, 2nd bt. (1892-1953), who loaned the house 1947 to the Convent of the Sacred Heart; returned in 1990s to Sir Charles Walter de Lancey Aitchison (b. 1951), who sold c.2000 to Ruff family.

Coupland Castle, Northumberland

Coupland Castle. Image: © North of the Tyne

A late tower house built of softly-coloured volcanic rock with buff sandstone dressings, possibly in 1594, the date scratched on the jamb of a ground-floor doorway.  The tower is T-shaped, and a broad square newel stair in the projecting wing rises to the first floor.  Above this point a narrower round newel stair is corbelled out in the angle between the stair wing and the main block.  The basement of the tower is tunnel-vaulted, and on the first floor is the former hall, containing a big fireplace dated 1619 with the initials of George and Mary Wallis.  The tower has a pitched roof and a walkway behind a plain corbelled-out parapet.  It is not clear how long the tower stood alone; there is a 16th or 17th century doorway into the kitchen range to the rear, and at the south end of the house is a three-bay 18th century block.  Most of the additions to the house were, however, rebuilt in the neo-Tudor style in 1820-25 by an unrecorded architect, who did a competent job both at the house and in the two lodges, which display some originality.  In the grounds are a decayed icehouse and a complex multi-faceted sundial of the Scottish type, c.1700.

Descent: sold 1584 to Wallis family… George Wallis (fl. 1618)… James Wallis (fl. 1663)… Ralph Wallis alias Wallace sold before c.1715 to Admiral Sir Chaloner Ogle RN (1680-1750); to nephew, Nathaniel Ogle of Kirkley (1715-62); to brother, Very Rev. Dr. Newton Ogle DD, Dean of Winchester (1726-1804); to son, Nathaniel Ogle (1765-1813), who sold 1806 to Thomas Bates (d. 1830); to nephew, Matthew Culley (1786-1834); to son, Matthew Tewart Culley (1832-89); to son, Rt. Rev. Monsignor Matthew Culley (1860-1920); to brother, John Henry Culley (1864-), who sold 1924 to Alderman J.F. Weidner who sold 1938 to Sir Walter de Lancey Aitchison, 2nd bt. (1892-1953); to widow, Sheena (née Fraser), Lady Aitchison (d. 1972); to grandson, Sir Charles Walter de Lancey Aitchison, 4th bt. (b. 1951), who sold c.1975... sold 1979 to Robin Jell (fl. 2017)

The Aitchisons of Lemmington Hall, baronets

Aitchison, Sir Stephen Harry (1863-1942), kt. and 1st bt., of Lemmington Hall. Son of John Gordon Aitchison of Devizes (Wilts), born 16 January 1863.  An employee of Walter Wilson Ltd., the grocery chain store; JP for Northumberland and Newcastle-on-Tyne; knighted, 1928; created a baronet, 31 January 1938.  He married, 2 June 1891, Alice Mary (d. 1932), daughter of Walter de Lancey Willson of Kirklinton Park (Cumberland), owner of Walter Wilson Ltd, and had issue:
(1) Sir Walter de Lancey Aitchison (1892-1953), 2nd bt. (q.v.);
(2) Commander John Gordon Aitchison RN (1893-1964), born 5 August 1893; served in Royal Navy; official commentator for Hurlingham Polo Association; married 31 October 1919, Eveline Betty (d. 1961), daughter of William Tudor Sutherland of Skibo Castle (Sutherland) and widow of Arthur Walter Forbes DSO RN and had issue two sons; died 15 August 1964;
(3) Aline Mary Aitchison (c.1895-c.1963), married 1918 Brigadier Harrison, Indian Army, and died c.1963;
(4) Stuart Willson Aitchison (1896-1955), born 19 May 1896; died 3 November 1955;
(5) Stephen Villiers Aitchison (1902-84), born 7 April 1902; educated at Harrow and Christ's College, Cambridge; married 1st, 1925, Alice A. Stamper and had issue one daughter; married 2nd, 1955, Jessie Ethel, daughter of Vernon Lovell; died 15 March 1984.
He purchased Lemmington Hall in 1913 and restored it from ruin, 1913-16.
He died 26 August 1942, and his will was proved 20 February 1943 (estate £455,182).  His wife died 8 April 1932.

Aitchison, Sir Walter de Lancey (1892-1953), 2nd bt., of Coupland Castle. Eldest son of Sir Stephen Harry Aitchison (1863-1942), 1st bt., and his wife Alice Mary, daughter of Walter de Lancey Willson, born 14 May 1892.  Educated at University College, Oxford (MA); Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.  He married, 18 April 1922, Sheena Lennox (d. 1972), daughter of Dr. Charles Lennox Fraser MD FRCS FRCP, and had issue:
(1) Sir Stephen Charles De Lancey Aitchison (1923-58), 3rd bt. (q.v.);
(2) Lennox Gordon Fraser Aitchison (1925-66), born 27 September 1925; educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Oxford (BA 1949; MA 1954); died unmarried in an aeroplane accident on Scafell in the Lake District, 17 September 1966;
(3) Shena Diana Aitchison (b. 1927)
(4) David Lachlan Aitchison (b. 1928), born 25 November 1928; educated at Rugby School; managing director of Walter Willson Ltd. and De Lancey Lands Ltd; married, 12 September 1955, Dorothy Hazel, daughter of Swinburne Kindred Walton and had issue one son and one daughter.
He purchased Coupland Castle in 1938 and inherited Lemmington Hall from his father in 1942, but leased it as a convent in 1947.  At his death Coupland Castle passed to his widow for life.
He died 14 October 1953, and his will was proved 1 June 1954 (estate £155,756).  His widow died 21 November 1972.

Aitchison, Sir Stephen Charles De Lancey (1923-58), 3rd bt., of Coupland Castle.  Eldest son of Sir Walter de Lancey Aitchison (1892-1953), 2nd bt., and his wife Sheena Lennox, daughter of Dr. Charles Lennox Fraser, born 10 March 1923.  Educated at Rugby and University College, Oxford; served in the army as a Major in 13th/18th Hussars; managing director of Walter Willson Ltd. and De Lancey Lands Ltd.  He married, 2 September 1950 (separated), (Elizabeth) Anne Milburn MB BS (who m.2, 1974, Roland Antony Cookson CBE DCL), daughter of Lt-Col. Edward Reed, and had issue:
(1) Sir Charles Walter de Lancey Aitchison ARICS (b. 1951), born 27 May 1951; educated at Gordonstoun; Lt. in 15th/19th King's Royal Hussars, 1974-78; married 1984, Susan, daughter of Edward Ellis of Hest Bank (Lancs) and had issue one son and one daughter; lived at Park House, Barbon (Cumbria) in the 1990s;
(2) (Stephen) Edward Aitchison  (b. 1954), born 27 March 1954; educated at Fettes College and Newcastle Polytechnic; chairman and managing director of Walter Willson Ltd. to 1998, and of De Lancey Lands Ltd.; married 1st, 1978 (div.), Mrs. Harriet N. Thompson, daughter of Dr. Henry Miller, and had issue one son and one daughter; married 2nd, 10 July 1997, Suzannah Heather, daughter of David Wiggs, and had issue one daughter.
He died 12 May 1958 as a result of gunshot wounds; an inquest determined there was insufficient evidence to show whether it was accident or suicide.


Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, successive editions; Pevsner, Richmond et al., The buildings of England: Northumberland, 2nd edn., 1992, pp. 243, 374-75

Location of archives

No significant archive is known to survive.

Coat of arms


Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 26 August 2013, and was updated 4 December 2017. I am grateful to Fiona Jell for a correction.


  1. Could you please tell me what (fl.) signifies. Many thanks.

  2. It is an abbreviation for the Latin "floreat"; literally meaning "May (he/she/it) flourish", but used in biographical and genealogical circles to indicate that a person was living at the date stated or in the period indicated.


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