Saturday 15 February 2014

(109) Allin of Somerleyton Hall, baronets

Allin of Somerleyton
The Allins, now almost entirely forgotten, owned Somerleyton Hall, one of the grandest houses in Suffolk, for more than a century from 1672. They owed their wealth to Admiral Sir Thomas Allin (1612-85), 1st bt., who began life as a merchant shipowner in Lowestoft and became a Royalist privateer during the Civil War. After the Restoration, he was a highly-regarded and successful naval captain, and in 1665 he was made an Admiral and knighted. He retired from the sea in 1669 (apart from a brief trick of the old rage in 1678), and was thereafter made a Navy commissioner; he became a baronet in 1673.  It is not quite clear how he made such a substantial fortune - although his appointment as Comptroller of the Navy in 1670 probably offered more opportunities for personal gain than most public appointments - but he told Pepys that he loved 'to get and to save money'. At all events, he invested substantially in land from 1668 onwards, buying the Blundeston estate in 1668, Somerleyton in 1672, and the manors of Lound and Gorleston in 1679.

This inheritance passed in 1685 to his son, Sir Thomas Allin (c.1651-96), 2nd bt., who died childless and left the estate to his nephew, Richard Anguish. Richard, who promptly changed his name to Allin in recognition of the bequest, was himself created a baronet in 1699 and served as MP for Dunwich for a few years in the first decade of the 18th century. After he died in 1725, the vigour of the family seems to have been in decline. His elder son died childless in 1764 and the estate passed to his surviving brother, an elderly clergyman. When he died in 1770 it went to his only son, who became a lunatic and died childless in 1794. The estate then passed to a distant Anguish cousin, who also died mad in 1810. By the 1840s, when it was sold to Sir Samuel Morton Peto, the house was no doubt tired too, and much in need of the dramatic makeover he gave it.

Somerleyton Hall, Suffolk

There has been a house on this site since at least 1240, but the house which the Allin family owned was built in the early 17th century by John Wentworth (d. 1618) or his son, Sir John Wentworth (d. 1651). It was a red brick house of considerable size, with a west-facing thirteen-bay main front dominated by the shaped gables over the projecting end units and a projecting two-storey porch, and two long wings running out to the east, forming a courtyard open to the east.  Although the appearance of the house would suggest a date in the 1620s or later, it is known that work was in progress on creating an elaborate garden in 1619, so the house may have been complete by then.

Somerleyton Hall before the Victorian remodelling, from an old engraving.

The house was remodelled in the early 18th century and given giant pilasters on the main front, which are just visible in the engraving above.  Inside the present house there remain from the 18th century the panelling of the staircase hall, the doorcases in the dining room, and a north-west room with very bold and deeply moulded garlands over the fireplace and doorcases. 

From the beginning the house seems to have had a significant garden layout, recorded on a map of 1652 and in a written description by the surveyor Thomas Martin of 1663, as well as by contemporary commentators. There were four main garden areas in a line north of the house, each larger than the last. The smallest and closest to the house was the square Great Garden, with a typical geometric layout with paths running from the middle of each side to a circular central feature. On the north side it had a raised terraced walk with banqueting houses at either end. Next came the larger but still roughly square North Orchard, with regularly planted fruit trees, which was presumably intended to be productive as well as ornamental. The third garden area was the Firrendale Yard, again square and larger, which was planted in 1612 with 256 fir trees arranged in regular rows either side of a central walk. By 1663 this had been largely flattened by a great wind, but Thomas Fuller, writing in 1662, was particularly impressed by the evergreen character of the trees, which, he said allowed "summer to be seen in the depth of winter". The most remarkable part of the garden, however, was the more irregularly shaped woodland to the north of the Firrendale Yard. This was not rigidly geometrical but was laid out with serpentine walks threading through the trees, an off-axis line of three fishponds (perhaps survivors from an earlier layout) with a grotto at one end, and seats and statues of people and beasts at intervals. Some of the statues were elevated on brick pillars, and a description by William Edge, who visited in 1619 while the garden was under construction, makes it clear that there was an iconographic programme to the sculpture. Edge also mentions waterworks in the garden, and another contemporary says Sir John Wentworth, having no children, "bestowed a great deale of cost in waterworkes, walks, woods and other delights", but the 1652 map betrays no sign of the waterworks, and all traces of the 17th century layout were removed in the 18th century.

Somerleyton Hall: garden front in 1995. Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Licenced under this Creative Commons licence

The present house is a remodelling and enlargement of the Jacobean house and one of the shaped gables is still visible near the Italianate tower. But to all external appearances, Somerleyton is now a Victorian house. This is due to Sir Samuel Morton Peto, the self-made building and railway contractor and MP, who transformed the house and gardens between 1844 and 1857, when the house was fully described in the Illustrated London News.  Peto got into financial difficulties shortly afterwards (he was bankrupted in 1866) and in 1863 the house was sold to a friend and fellow MP, Sir Francis Crossley, whose descendants still own it.  

Somerleyton Hall: entrance front in 2007.

The remodelling was carried out by John Thomas, a protégé of Charles Barry and the Prince of Wales, who was a sculptor and occasional architect, though his assistant Henry Parsons later claimed he did most of the work. Thomas made the courtyard side of the house the entrance front, refaced the house with new brickwork, added elaborately carved stone dressings overall, and created the colonnade with a single-storey projecting porch between the two existing wings, and the Italianate tower placed asymmetrically to the left. 

Somerleyton Hall: the side elevation and Italianate tower.
Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Licenced under this Creative Commons licence

The west-facing garden front is quieter and less Jacobean, except for the three-storey porch with superimposed orders of enriched columns, which is itself a reworking of the previous entrance porch. Inside and outside, the decoration, mainly loosely Jacobean in inspiration, and much of it carved by Thomas, is very luscious.  There is stained glass by Ballantyne of Edinburgh; carved oak in the library by Willcox of Warwick; built-in paintings by Landseer, Stanfield etc. in the dining hall (which was originally two-storeyed but has been subdivided); and marbling and graining by Moxon throughout.  The entrance hall has a glazed dome with stained glass of waterfowl found in the neighbourhood.

View of the house and grounds at Somerleyton Hall by Jonathan Myles-Lea
© J. Myles-Lea and reproduced by permission

When Samuel Peto turned his attention to creating new gardens in the mid 19th century, he again concentrated on the area north of the house, where John Thomas designed an enormous winter garden, a large fountain and other statuary, with a huge kitchen garden beyond. Sometime between 1854 and 1857, however, there was a radical redesign of the pleasure grounds: most of the statues were moved elsewhere in the grounds, the fountain was moved into the winter garden, the paths were made more serpentine and complex, and a large number of exotic specimen trees were planted. These changes may have been made under the direction of W.A. Nesfield, who is known to have created the balustraded terrace west of the house at this time, and the maze north of the kitchen garden. 

Somerleyton Hall: aerial view of the maze
The terrace originally provided the setting for elaborate box parterres, which were however grassed over in the early 20th century. Another casualty of the 20th century was the winter garden, which is now open to the sky, with only the external walls remaining. Despite these losses, the house, with its elaborate gardens, long ranges of Paxton-roofed hothouses, maze, aviary, outbuildings and model village remain a powerful evocation of the mansion of a great Victorian plutocrat.

Descent: sold 1604 to John Wentworth (d. 1618/19); to son, Sir John Wentworth (d. 1651), kt; to widow, Anne, Lady Wentworth (d. 1663); to nephew, John Garneys; to son, Thomas Garneys, who sold 1672 to Admiral Sir Thomas Allin (1612-85), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Thomas Allin (d. 1696), 2nd bt.; to nephew, Sir Richard Anguish (later Allin) of Moulton (d. 1725), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Thomas Allin (d. 1764), 2nd bt.; to brother, Rev. Sir Ashurst Allin (d. 1779), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir Thomas Allin (d. 1794), 4th bt.; to kinsman, Thomas Anguish (d. 1810); to brother, Rev. George Anguish (d. 1843); to nephew, Lord Sydney Godolphin Osborne, who sold 1844 to Sir Morton Peto, kt., who remodelled the house; sold to Sir Francis Crossley (1817-72), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Savile Brinton Crossley (1857-1935), 2nd bt. and 1st Baron Somerleyton; to son, Francis Savile Crossley (1889-1959), 2nd Baron Somerleyton; to son, Savile William Francis Crossley (b. 1928), 3rd Baron Somerleyton.

Allin family of Somerleyton, baronets

Sir Thomas Allin, 1st bt.
by Sir Peter Lely
Allin, Admiral Sir Thomas (1612-85), kt. and 1st bt. Only son of Robert Allin (d. 1613) and his wife Alice, baptised 8 November 1612. One of the most active and successful naval commanders of the Second Dutch War. A merchant-shipowner of Lowestoft, he led a Royalist rising in the town in 1643, after which he had to escape to Holland and turned to privateering in the Royalist interest; he later served as captain of a frigate under Prince Rupert. He served in the Royalist fleet until he was sunk off Cartagena in 1650. He was then court-martialled by his own side for cowardice, but escaped before sentence was passed. In 1653 he was captured and imprisoned by the Cromwellian regime in London, and his house near Lowestoft (Olderings House) was sold. At the Restoration he returned to favour and was regarded as one of the most reliable officers by Charles II, from whom he received a succession of commands. It was his attack on the Dutch Smyrna fleet of Cadiz in December 1664 which sparked off the Second Dutch War, during which he served with distinction. He was promoted to Admiral, and knighted, 24 September 1665; and his service afloat ended with two expeditions to the Mediterranean, 1668-9, in which he imposed terms upon the Barbary states. He had been at sea almost continuously for ten years, and had held eleven commissions as a captain since 1660. He later served as Comptroller of the Navy, 1671-80; captain of Sandgate Castle; and master of Trinity House, 1671-72; and was created a baronet, 7th February 1673. He stood for Parliament in the Dunwich constituency (which his son later represented) in 1669, but the disputed outcome was decided in favour of his opponent by the elections committee of Parliament. As a prominent Navy official, Allin features in Samuel Pepys' diaries, and Pepys records his cheerful admission that he loved 'to get and to save' money. He married 1st, 8 July 1635 at Redisham (Suffolk), Rebecca, daughter of Capt. William Whiting RN of Lowestoft (Suffolk) and 2nd, 1682, Elizabeth (b. 1645), daughter of Thomas Anguish of Moulton (Norfolk), who was the sister of his son-in-law, and had issue:
(1.1) Anne Allin (c.1637-64); died unmarried, 31 May 1664;
(1.2) Alice Allin (later Anguish) (1642-98) (q.v.);
(1.3) Sir Thomas Allin (c.1651-1696), 2nd bt. (q.v.);
His house near Lowestoft, Olderings, was sequestered and sold under the Commonwealth. He purchased a number of estates in Lothingland in the late 17th century, of which the main elements were the Blundeston Hall estate (including Ashby, Carlton Colville and Fritton) bought from John Tasburgh in 1668; the Somerleyton Hall estate bought from Thomas Garneys in 1672; and the manors of Lound and Gorleston, bought in 1679.
He was buried at Somerleyton, 5 October 1685; his will was proved in the PCC, 6 October 1685. His widow's date of death is unknown.

Allin, Sir Thomas (c.1651-96), 2nd bt. Son of Adm. Sir Thomas Allin (1613-85), 1st bt., and his first wife Alice, daughter of Capt. Whiting RN of Lowestoft, born about 1651. JP for Suffolk, 1677-88, 1689-94 and DL 1680-94; commissioner for assessment in Suffolk, 1677-80, 1689-90 and in Dunwich 1679-80, 1689-90; freeman of Dunwich, 1678; Tory MP for Dunwich, 1678-79, 1689; alderman of Southwold (Suffolk), 1684-88; Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, 1691-96. A supporter of the Court party, he accepted the Revolution, and was even given a place at Court under King William III, but he was one of the Tory magistrates removed from the Suffolk bench in 1694. He married, about December 1672, Mary (d. 1699), daughter of Thomas Colwall of London, scrivener, but had no issue.
He inherited the Somerleyton Hall estate from his father in 1685. At his death, the estate passed to his nephew, Richard Anguish (later Allin).
He died in October 1696, when the baronetcy became extinct. His widow died in September 1699.

Anguish (né Allin), Alice (1642-98). Younger and only surviving daughter of Adm. Sir Thomas Allin (1612-85), 1st bt., and his first wife Alice, daughter of Capt. Whiting RN of Lowestoft, born 14 July 1642. She married, 11 June 1663, Edmund Anguish (1637-99) of Moulton (Norfolk) and had issue:
(1) Thomas Anguish (b. 1664), born 12 March 1663/4 and baptised 22 June 1664;
(2) Allin Anguish (b. 1665), born 29 June and baptised 6 July 1665; educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (admitted 1681);
(3) Parthenia Anguish (b. 1667), born 15 August and baptised 22 August 1667.
(4) Sir Richard Anguish (later Allin) (c.1669-1725), 1st bt. (q.v.);
(5) Edmund Anguish (1672-1708); baptised 30 April 1672; married, 29 December 1698, Mary Betts and had issue two sons and three daughters; died 1708;
She died 28 November 1698.

Allin (né Anguish), Sir Richard (c.1669-1725), 1st bt. Eldest surviving son of Edmund Anguish and his wife Alice, daughter of Adm. Sir Thomas Allin (1610-85), 1st bt, born about 1669 in London. Educated at Great Yarmouth and St John's College, Cambridge (admitted 30 April 1685, aged 15); farmer of the customs at Great Yarmouth, 1685-1709; Whig MP for Dunwich, 1709-10; High Sheriff of Suffolk, 1702; freeman of Dunwich (Suffolk), 1709. Changed his name to Allin on inheriting the Somerleyton estate, 1696, and was created a baronet, 14 December 1699. By 1710 his debts totalled some £11,775, over £3,600 of which was due to the Treasury as part of the arrears owed by Samuel Pacy, a former receiver-general for Suffolk, for whom Allin had stood surety. In June 1710 and again at the end of the year he petitioned for time to pay, ‘by reason he is only tenant for life and therefore can raise no money’, a consequence of his marriage settlement, and eventually he was obliged to obtain in 1711 a private Act to enable him to sell off part of his estate. He married, 30 September 1699 in Chapel Royal, Whitehall, London, Frances (c.1680-1743), only daughter of Sir Henry Ashurst, 1st bt. of Waterstock (Oxon) and had issue:
(1) Diana Allin (1700-86); married, 8 June 1718, Thomas Henry Ashhurst (1672-1744) of Waterstock (Oxon) and had issue three sons and five daughters; died 27 November 1786;
(2) Sir Thomas Allin (1702-1764), 2nd bt. (q.v.);
(3) Henry Allin (1703-37); died unmarried;
(4) Richard Allin (b. 1704); born 27 November and baptised 5 December 1704; died unmarried in the lifetime of his father;
(5) Rev. Sir Ashurst Allin (1708-70), 3rd bt. (q.v.);
(6) William Allin; died unmarried in the lifetime of his father.
He inherited the Somerleyton Hall estate from his uncle in October 1696 and added to it a freehold property at Blundeston shortly after 1700, but sold portions of the lands at Blundeston about 1712 to pay off his debts.
He died 19 October 1725. His widow died 23 June 1743.

Allin, Sir Thomas (1702-64), 2nd bt. Eldest son of Sir Richard Allin (c.1669-1725), 1st bt. and his wife Frances, daughter of Sir Henry Ashurst, bt. of Waterstock (Oxon), born 7 and baptised 12 May 1702. Land waiter for the port of London c.1722-29. High Sheriff of Suffolk, 1730. Serjeant-at-arms to the Treasury, 1733. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Somerleyton Hall estate from his father in 1725.
He died 11 August 1764.

Allin, Rev. Sir Ashurst (1708-70), 3rd bt. Youngest son of Sir Richard Allin (d. 1725), 1st bt. and his wife Frances, daughter of Sir Henry Ashurst, bt. of Waterstock (Oxon), born 14 July and baptised 4 August 1708. Educated at Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1727; BA 1731) and Emmanuel College, Cambridge (MA 1739). Rector of Blundeston-cum-Flixton (Suffolk) and Somerleyton, 1732-70. He married Thomasine, daughter of Col. Playters and widow of [forename unknown] Norris and had issue:
(1) Frances Allin (fl. 1770), of Blundeston; died unmarried;
(2) Sir Thomas Allin (d. 1794), 4th bt. (q.v.).
He inherited the Somerleyton Hall estate from his eldest brother in 1764. At his death part of the Blundeston estate passed to his daughter, whose executors sold it to Sir Nicholas Bacon of Raveningham (Norfolk); the remainder of the estate passed to his son.
He died 6 November 1770.

Allin, Sir Thomas (d. 1794), 4th bt. Only son of Rev. Sir Ashurst Allin (d. 1770), 3rd bt. Educated at Norwich and Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge (admitted, 1757). Became a lunatic. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Somerleyton Hall estate from his father in 1770.  At his death his estates passed to his kinsman, Thomas Anguish (d. 1810), great-grandson of the younger brother of the 1st bt. of the second creation.
He died 30 April 1794 and was buried at Somerleyton; the baronetcy then became extinct.


Burke's Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 2nd edn, 1841, pp. 4-5; M. Girouard, The Victorian country house, 2nd edn., 1979, pp. 420-21; J. Kenworthy-Browne et al., Burke’s & Savill’s Guide to Country Houses: vol. 3, East Anglia, 1981, p.262; T. Williamson, Suffolk's Gardens and Parks, 2000, pp. 16-19, 129-40;

Location of archives

Allin family of Blundeston and Somerleyton: deeds, estate papers and manorial records, 14th-18th cents. [Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft, HB6, HA236]; deeds and estate papers, 17th-19th cents. [Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft, 749]
Allin, Admiral Sir Thomas (1613-85), 1st bt: correspondence and papers, 1655-68 [Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS. Tanner]. His journals, 1660-78, have been published by the Navy Records Society, 1939-40.

Coat of arms

Gules, a cinquefoil pierced or.

This account was first published 15 February 2014 and was revised 12th October 2014 and 13th February 2016.

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