Wednesday 25 May 2016

(218) Astley of Dukinfield Lodge

Astley of Dukinfield
The Astleys of Dukinfield claimed descent from a younger son of the Astleys of Patshull (who will be the subject of a post shortly), but the connection is uncertain. Their rise to fortune was due to the activities of John Astley (1724-87), who was the son of an apothecary at Wem (Shropshire). Since he showed some promise as a painter when young he was sent to London to study portrait painting under Thomas Hudson, and later made his way to Italy, where he lived for some years and was the frequent companion of his contemporary, Sir Joshua Reynolds. In Italy he scraped a living executing copies of Old Master works for the English market, but was said to be so poor that on one occasion he was reduced to patching the back of a waistcoat with the canvas of one of his best works; judging by his later style, however, this may just have been a good advertising stunt. In about 1752 he came back to the British Isles and settled in Dublin, where he seems to have enjoyed some success as a portraitist, and where he married for the first time. By the late 1750s he was in England again and he apparently returned to the area where he had grown up, perhaps initially to sort out family affairs, as his first wife died in childbirth at Wem in 1758.

John Astley is said to have been a handsome man - his looks earned him the nickname 'Beau Astley' - but more importantly he was lucky. Shortly after his first wife died, he attended an assembly at Knutsford where he so captivated the recently widowed Lady Dukinfield Daniel that she requested him to paint her portrait, and when it was finished "intimated to him that if he was pleased with the portrait he might have the original." They were married in 1759 and she settled on him an estate at Over Tabley, where he built a new house in the 1760s. His wife died in 1762, however, and no children are recorded from the marriage. Her heir to the main Dukinfield and Daniel estates in Cheshire was her daughter by her first marriage, who was judged to be insane, but Astley's income from the Over Tabley estate and from portraiture was sufficient to allow him to take a lease of Schomberg House in Pall Mall, London in 1769. He divided this house into three, and remodelled the middle section which he retained for his own use as a London home. In 1771 his stepdaughter died, and as a result Astley came into the remainder of the Dukinfield estate, and was thenceforward a much wealthier man. He seems quickly to have built Dukinfield Lodge to his own designs to supersede the old Hall, and laid out the grounds there. He gave up exhibiting pictures, although he apparently went on painting, and seems to have repositioned himself as a gentleman amateur in architecture rather than a professional painter. In 1777 he married for a third time, to the daughter of a Manchester doctor who was a celebrated beauty and 37 years his junior, and in the next six years they produced five children.

John Astley died in 1787 leaving as his heir his young son, Francis Dukinfield Astley (1781-1825). In 1793 his widow married again, but the family continued to live at Dukinfield Lodge, and Francis seems to have taken up his responsibilities as landowner before coming of age, since as early as 1802, when he was 21, he was awarded a medal for planting 40,000 trees. Francis was a young man of great promise: he was rich, relatively good looking, artistic (he was a published poet and amateur artist), and had a deep concern for the welfare of his tenantry and estate. In 1812 he married and the following year he bought the Fell Foot estate in the Lake District, where he could enjoy fabulous views over Windermere. But tragedy was never far away. His first born son died when just a few weeks old from a fall from a window, and in his efforts to develop his estate and protect his tenants from the worst effects of the depression in trade occasioned by war with France he over-reached himself financially, and in 1817 he was declared bankrupt. However, the discovery of coal on his estate restored his fortunes without the loss of his property, and after many barren years his wife presented him with a son and heir in 1825. But just a few months later he died in his sleep while visiting his brother-in-law, Thomas Gisborne, in Derbyshire. There were accusations of murder, made in a scandalously public way at Astley's funeral, but an independent inquiry which Gisborne instigated to clear his name found no evidence of foul play and declared the death to be 'by visitation of God'. Some doubt must remain, however, as there seems to have been no autopsy, and because just a year later Gisborne married Astley's widow, his deceased wife's sister.

The heir to the Dukinfield estate was the infant Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley (1825-68), who grew up into a young man possessed of all "his predecessors' talents and virtues with the advantage of more practical wisdom". Like his father his star quickly burned brightly: in 1847 he married and the following year he stood as the Liberal candidate for one of Cheshire's parliamentary seats and bought the Arisaig estate in Scotland. Arisaig seems to have replaced Fell Foot as the family's main home, and Fell Foot was sold in 1859. After withdrawing from parliamentary politics following his defeat in 1848, Astley threw himself into estate improvement. Always interested in engineering, between 1847 and 1858 he supervised the digging of a coal pit on the Dukinfield estate which for a time was the deepest mine in the world. He was also a keen yachtsman (childhood holidays on Windermere are probably to blame for that) and after acquiring a ship of his own he sailed for pleasure in Arctic waters and during the Crimean War took his boat to the Black Sea with a cargo of medical supplies and was involved in evacuating wounded soldiers to hospital. The tragedy that dogged his father was not far away, however. His beloved and talented wife soon began to exhibit the symptoms of consumption and died in 1862. He blamed her death on the damp situation of their house in Scotland, but even though he built a replacement on a new and much airier site in 1863-64 to the designs of the young Philip Webb, he too contracted the disease and died in 1868.

Yet again the Dukinfield estate was inherited by a minor: the last Francis Dukinfield Astley had been born in 1853 and was an Eton schoolboy of just fifteen when his father died. He and his sisters were brought up, chiefly in London, by family friends, and he went on from Eton to Sandhurst and joined the Scots Fusiliers. He resigned his commission in 1880 and went to Canada with a group of friends for a sporting holiday. This time Fate did not mess about, and he was drowned within a few weeks of arriving in Canada while shooting rapids in a boat with two Indian guides. The Dukinfield and Arisaig estates were not entailed, and although there were male cousins who could have inherited (descendants of John Astley's younger son, John William Astley (1784-1860)), the entire property passed to Francis' elder sister, Gertrude (1849-1920), who married a clerk in the House of Commons, Sir Arthur William Nicholson. The Dukinfield estate seems to have been broken up through piecemeal development from this time onwards, but Arisaig passed to their elder daughter, Charlotte Gertrude Astley Nicholson (d. 1961), who lived there (apart from a period during the Second World War when it was requisitioned and became the headquarters of the Special Operations Executive) until she gave it to her friend Miss Joan Becher (d. 1994) in 1955. The house was finally sold in the late 1970s, although Miss Becher built a smaller house to replace it and retained the estate until her death.

Over Tabley Hall, Cheshire

Over Tabley Hall in 2010. Image: Iain Lees. Some rights reserved.

The jolly nine-bay Gothick red brick front was built onto a plain earlier house between 1759 and 1771 by John Astley to his own designs. It has two storeys of pointed windows and a raised projecting centre, both centre and angles have clasping buttresses, and in the middle there is a broad arched doorway. The doorcase, window surrounds and buttresses are all decorated by large fat rosettes, and there are crocketed pinnacles on the buttresses and the pedimental gable in the centre. The first floor of the centre has an enormous window that must have lit Astley's studio. References in printed sources to partial demolition and the discovery of cellars at the back of the site suggest that the house may once have been larger; perhaps it was abandoned unfinished when Astley inherited the Dukinfield estate and turned his attentions to building a new house there. The house was renovated and extended to its original width after 2007, when it was converted into flats.

Descent: Piers Daniell (c.1485-1522); to son, Thomas Daniell (c.1503-51); to son, Peter Daniell (d. 1557); to son, Thomas Daniell (d. 1575); to son, Peter Daniell (d. 1590); to son, Peter Daniell (1584-1652); to son, Thomas Daniell (fl. 1666); to son, Sir Samuel Daniell (d. 1724), kt.; to niece, Sarah Parker, wife of Sir Charles Dukinfield (1670-1742), 2nd bt.; to son, Sir William Dukinfield Daniell (1725-58), 3rd bt.; to widow, Penelope (1722-62), later wife of John Astley (1724-87), to whom she gave the estate; it was let from 1784 or earlier; to son, Francis Dukinfield Astley (1781-1825), who sold to Sir John Fleming Leycester of Tabley House, after which it descended with that estate...sold 2007 and converted to flats.

Dukinfield Lodge, Dukinfield, Cheshire
Dukinfield Lodge was a completely new house designed by John Astley for himself after he came into the estate in 1771. The house seems to have been more or less triangular in plan, with a long irregular north front overlooking the River Tame, and shorter west and south fronts. The castellated entrance side was on the west, and had a Gothick loggia between projecting wings. The design bears a distinct resemblance to Over Tabley Hall in the use of large Gothick windows and a central tower-like feature, although Dukinfield Lodge was curiously less sophisticated than Over Tabley. 

Dukinfield Lodge: the west-facing entrance front, designed by John Astley for himself, from a Victorian photograph. 

The house contained a saloon, a great octagon room with painted windows, a hothouse and an open bath with an adjoining dressing room. John Aikin described the house as unfinished in 1775, and it was evidently extended in the early 19th century by a brick wing with a bowed end. In the late 18th and early 19th century John Astley and his son also built roads, two bridges across the River Tame, an inn, an iron foundry, and a model village for his foundry workers. 

Dukinfield Lodge: view from the River Tame, showing the long north side of the house.
According to John Aikin, there was a terrace in front of the house "affording a very pleasant view; and the precipitous rock descending from it has been cloathed with evergreens and other trees and shrubs. A fine wood occupies the space between it and the river, through which are cut several retired walks... Its beauties have given rise to a descriptive piece written by a young poet, Mr William Hampson." We know very little more, except that John Astley's son, Francis Dukinfield Astley, who was an amateur artist, added further pictures to the collection of his father's work which the house contained. The house was demolished in 1949.

Descent: built c.1771-75 for John Astley (1724-87); to son, Francis Dukinfield Astley (1781-1825); to son, Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley (1825-68), who let it from c.1833 onwards; to son, Francis Dukinfield Astley (1853-80), who continued to lease it; to sister, Beatrice Emma (1858-1923), wife of John Frederick Cheetham (1834-1916)...demolished 1949.

Fell Foot, Newby Bridge, Lancashire (now Cumbria)

Fell Foot: the villa from a late 19th century engraving.

The house stood in a fine situation at the southern tip of Lake Windermere, with views up the lake. After the yeomen farmers who had owned this land for many years sold the estate about 1784, their modest farmhouse was enlarged into a plain white stucco villa of two and three storeys for Jeremiah Dixon, sometime mayor of Leeds. The main front had a central single-storey semicircular bow with attached Tuscan columns and tripartite windows above. In 1810 the grounds were improved by moving the road, which originally ran between the house and the lake, further inland, and in the early 19th century a fully glazed conservatory was built all along one side of the house, probably for Francis Astley, who had botanical interests. In the 1860s, a miniature dockyard with five castellated boathouses was built on the edge of the lake for Col. Ridehalgh, who was a sailing enthusiast; he also established a private gas supply in 1869. The house was demolished by Oswald Hedley in 1907 to make way for a new one, but this had progressed no further than the foundations when Mrs. Hedley died, and her husband abandoned the project. The other buildings at the site survive, and are now in the care of The National Trust.

Descent: Robinson family sold c.1784 to Jeremiah Dixon; sold 1813 to Francis Dukinfield Astley (1781-1825); to son, Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley (1825-68), who sold 1859 to Colonel George John Miller Ridehalgh (1835-92); to cousin, George Ridehalgh (d. 1907); sold 1907 sold to Oswald Hedley (1884-1945) who demolished the house later that year; to widow, Mrs E.L. Hedley, who gave the estate in 1948 to The National Trust.

Arisaig House, Inverness-shire

When Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley bought the Arisaig estate in 1848 it came with an early 19th century Gothic mansion by James Gillespie Graham. Believing that the dark, damp situation of the house had caused his wife to contract tuberculosis, Astley decided to build a replacement house in a better situation. He commissioned a design from the London architects, Stevens and Robinson, who submitted a proposal with many Dutch gables and a spire. By the time their drawing was submitted in 1863, however, Mrs. Astley had died, and Astley rejected their proposal but not the idea of rebuilding, and turned instead to Philip Webb, who designed a house that stood in a sheltered position but with fine prospects.

Arisaig House: as rebuilt by Philip Webb in 1863-64, from a photograph of c.1880.

It was Webb’s first big country house – the architect later called it “a product of his ignorance” – and was in a simplified style reminiscent of parsonages by Butterfield or Street, rather than the Scots Baronial style that was usual for Victorian mansions in the Highlands. The new house was built in 1863-64 and cost of £12,181, a modest figure reflecting the low cost of labour in the Highlands and the fact that local materials were used as far as possible. Webb braced the house against the hill on the east by a buttressed and battered plinth. To enable the new mansion to fit onto the limited flat area offered by the site, the kitchen and servants' hall were placed in the basement. The main rooms, all of which had access to the gardens on the south and west, were grouped around a large two-storey central hall on the ground floor. Upstairs there were twelve bedrooms and five dressing rooms on the first floor and a further twelve bachelors' bedrooms and Astley's billiard room suite were placed on the second floor.

Arisaig House: the drawing room in 1882, with Miss Gertrude Astley seated. Image: RIBA.

The dark entrance lobby on the north front opened into the high well-lit central hall, which had a fireplace with a large stone hood and a first-floor gallery. In the other reception rooms, Webb was careful not to detract from the magnificent views through the windows by too much architectural splendour; they were provided with window seats separated off from the body of the room by pointed stone arches that supported the upper walls, and panelled to about head-height with white-painted wainscoting.

Arisaig House, as reconstructed by Ian Hamilton in 1936-37.

The house was gutted by fire in 1935, but a walled garden of the 1860s survives to the south-east and Webb’s stables also survive. After the fire, the house was rebuilt in 1936-37 on a slightly smaller footprint by Ian Hamilton (of Hamilton & Lindsay) as a handsome but not very distinctive Arts & Crafts manor house.  The main survivor of the old building was the austere kitchen wing; little else of the Webb house survived the fire in recognisable form, although much of the walling was reused.  The interior is of course all of the 1930s, and has Art Deco touches like the cherrywood panelling of the dining room.  The main staircase has a neo-Caroline balustrade; the drawing room simple groin vaulting.  

During the Second World War, the house became the headquarters of the Special Operations Executive, which was so secret that its activities have only become public knowledge in recent years. In the 1970s, Miss Becher built a smaller house nearby at Druimindarroch, and sold Arisaig House, which became an hotel in 1982, and after briefly reverting to being a private home in 2002, it is now run as a bed and breakfast establishment.

Descent: sold 1848 to Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley (1825-68); to son, Francis Dukinfield Astley (1853-80); to sister, Gertrude Susan (1849-1920), later wife of Sir Arthur William Nicholson (1852-1932); to daughter, Miss Charlotte Gertrude Astley Nicholson (d. 1961), for whom it was rebuilt after a fire in 1935 and from whom it was requisitioned by the War Office, 1939-46; given 1955 to Miss Joan Becher (d. 1995); sold late 1970s and again 1982 to Mr & Mrs. Smither; sold 2010 to Emma Weir (b. 1960) and run by her sister, Sarah Winnington-Ingram.

Astley family of Dukinfield Lodge

John Astley, from a self-portrait
with his horse
Astley, John (1724-87). Son of Richard Astley (1671-1754) of Wem (Shropshire), apothecary, and his wife Margaret (1685-1735), born 24 June 1724. A portrait painter and amateur architect, who studied with Thomas Hudson in London in the 1740s and then in 1747 went to study in Rome and Florence where he was friend and contemporary of Sir Joshua Reynolds; he remained there until about 1752, copying old masters for Lord Chesterfield and others. On returning to the British Isles he set himself up in Dublin as a portrait painter and worked there for some years before returning to England. Although he had talent as an artist, it was a second-rate talent, and he traded much on his good looks (which earned him the nickname 'Beau Astley') in building up "patronage among a vast circle of fashion". According to his contemporary, John Williams, "He thought that every advantage in civil society was compounded in women and wine... he was as ostentatious as the peacock and as amorous as the Persian Sophi", while Horace Walpole, who was an early patron and initially an enthusiastic promoter of Astley's career, commented that "he estimated his profession only by his gains, and having obtained a fortune, treated all future study with contemptuous neglect". He did, however, continue to paint if not to exhibit after he became wealthy, and also turned his hand to architecture, altering his house at Over Tabley (Cheshire) and designing Dukinfield Lodge, and making alterations to Schomberg House in Pall Mall (which he rented as a London residence from 1769), as well as designing a saloon and conservatory for Lady Archer's St Anne's House, Barnes (Surrey) and remodelling his own house there, Elm Bank. What is known of his works suggests that his preferred style was Gothick, 'handled a bit clumsily, but all the more engaging for that' (Pevsner). Called 'a ladykiller of the first water' he married 1st, 'an Irish lady... who died giving birth'; she could be the 'Mary, wife of John Astley of this town' buried at Wem (Shropshire), 19 April 1758; he married 2nd, 7 December 1759 at Rostherne (Cheshire), Penelope (1722-62), daughter of William Vernon and widow of Sir William Dukinfield Daniell (1725-58), 3rd bt.; and 3rd, 11 November 1777 at Stockport, 'a celebrated young beauty', Mary (1761-1832), daughter of William Wagstaffe of Manchester, surgeon, and had issue:
(1.1) Sophia Astley (c.1753-1831); she became the mistress of George Hyde Clarke (1743-1824), a prominent landowner in Cheshire and Jamaica (whom John Astley referred to in his will as an 'execrable villain') and had issue two sons (one born in Jamaica); she married, 20 September 1792 at St Marylebone (Middx), Louis Foncier (1745-1844), a Frenchman, and had issue one further son; buried at Waters Upton (Shropshire), 12 November 1831;
(3.1) Harriet Astley (1778-1858), baptised 26 August 1778 at Ashton-under-Lyne; married, 31 July 1800 at Ashton-under-Lyne, Rev. John Hayes Petit (d. 1822) and had issue ten children; lived latterly at Lichfield (Staffs); died 5 April 1858; will proved 18 June 1858 (effects under £5,000);
(3.2) Maria Astley (1780-1865), baptised 26 January 1780 at Ashton-under-Lyne; married Maj. George Younghusband (1784-1836), son of Thomas Younghusband of Lyham, Elwick & Marden, and had issue; died aged 86 on 28 August 1865 and was buried in St. Helier (Jersey);
(3.3) Francis Dukinfield Astley (1781-1825) (q.v.);
(3.4) Cordelia Emma Astley (1783-1857), baptised at Ashton-under-Lyne, 4 January 1784; married, 18 November 1807 at Stockport (Cheshire), Rev. George Hornsby (1781-1837), rector of Turkdean (Glos), 1807-37, and had issue; died 6 December and was buried at Turkdean, 12 December 1857; will proved 17 February 1858 (effects under £1,000);
(3.5) John William Astley (1784-1860*), baptised 1 January 1785; educated at Rugby; 2nd Lt. in Dukinfield Rifles, 1804; admitted a freemason, 1808; farmed at Cwmllecoediog, St. Tydecho (Merioneths.), where he built a new house and as a consequence ran into debt; an insolvent debtor, 1841; married, 19 January 1805 at Manchester, Mary (b. 1785), daughter of Samuel Barlow, and had issue twelve children; died at St. Helier (Jersey), 28 November 1860, aged 76.
At the time of his second marriage his wife settled on him the estate of Over Tabley (Cheshire). On the death of her insane daughter by her first marriage in 1771, he also inherited the Dukinfield estate, where he built Dukinfield Lodge to replace the old semi-timbered Dukinfield Hall. He also benefited from a legacy of £10,000 from his brother, Robert Astley.
He died 14 November and was buried 21 November 1787 at Dukinfield Old Chapel, where he is commemorated by a monument designed by Fishers of York in 1802; his will was proved 4 January and 20 February 1788. His first wife was perhaps buried at Wem, 19 April 1758. His second wife died 31 January 1762. His widow married 2nd, 28 January 1793, Rev. William Robert Hay (1761-1839), later vicar of Rochdale and Prebendary of York, and had further issue; she died 18 February 1832.
* Many sources give his date of death as 1823, but this is incorrect and I have been unable to trace the source of the error.

F.D. Astley (1781-1825)
Astley, Francis Dukinfield (1781-1825). Elder son of John Astley (1724-87) and his third wife, Mary, daughter of William Wagstaffe of Manchester, surgeon, baptised at Ashton-under-Lyne (Lancs), 22 August 1781. Educated at Rugby School. Captain of Dukinfield Independent Rifle Company, 1804; High Sheriff of Cheshire, 1807 (the procession at his installation was " attended by such a retinue of friends and tenants as was probably never equalled in Cheshire, and with a profuse splendour which is yet remembered as a notable event in the county, and especially in the city of Chester" and was recorded in a painting); JP for Cheshire, 1813; Provincial Grand Master of Free Masons for Lancashire, 1814-25. He was esteemed by contemporaries as a poet and published several volumes of serio-comic verse (one of which, Varnishando, reflects his own experience as the dupe of unscrupulous picture-forgers); a manuscript volume of his poems is now in the John Rylands University Library in Manchester. In 1802 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Society for the Improvement of Agriculture for planting 40,000 trees, and he later published Hints to planters, 1807 and The planter's guide, 1814. He was also a keen horse-racing enthusiast and hunter, keeping his own pack of hounds at Fell Foot and building 'the Hunter's Tower' at Dukinfield. He invested unwisely in building an ironworks on his estate which failed, and is said also to have lost large sums 'by his benevolent efforts  to mitigate the distress caused in the district at the time of the war with France'. These factors may explain why he was declared bankrupt in May 1817 and in December 1817 proposed selling the Fell Foot estate; by February 1818 his brother-in-law, Thomas Gisborne of Horwich, had been appointed as his assignee in bankruptcy; his debts were finally cleared in November 1819, and the discovery of large deposits of coal on his estate subsequently restored his fortunes. He married, 10 June 1812 at Etwall (Derbys), Susan Fysche (1794-1878), daughter of Capt. Roger Fysche Palmer of Ickwell (Beds.) and had issue:
(1) John Dukinfield Astley (b. & d. 1813), born March 1813; killed by falling from a window, aged 16 weeks, 18 July 1813; buried at Dukinfield Old Chapel where he is commemorated by a monument designed by G. Napper;
(2) Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley (1825-68) (q.v.).
He inherited Dukinfield Lodge from his father in 1787, and came of age in 1802. In 1813 he bought Fell Foot, a late 18th century villa on the edge of Lake Windermere. 
He died unexpectedly in the night on 29 July 1825 at the house of Thomas Gisborne and there were public accusations at his funeral at Dukinfield Old Chapel (where he is commemorated by a tomb designed by John Palmer) that he had been poisoned by Gisborne. Although there was no Coroner's inquest, Gisborne arranged for local doctors and magistrates to enquire into the circumstances of the death with a view to clearing his name. The enquiry concluded that the death was natural, but the press reports avoid much detail and it seems unlikely that the body was exhumed and a post mortem held. Thomas Gisborne subsequently married Astley's widow, who was the sister of his deceased wife Elizabeth (1789-1823), on 25 September 1826 at Newchurch (IoW); she died 22 January and was buried 26 January 1878 at Hampstead (Middx).

F.D.P. Astley (1825-68)
Astley, Francis Dukinfield Palmer (1825-68). Only surviving child of Francis Dukinfield Astley and his wife Susan, daughter of Capt. Roger Fysche Palmer of Ickwell (Beds), born at Fell Foot, 24 April 1825. Educated privately and at Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1843). Landowner and proprietor of coal mines at Dukinfield. "He was a man who inherited his predecessors' talents and virtues with the advantage of more practical wisdom". From childhood he was a keen engineer and mechanic, and between 1847 and 1858 he dug what was then the deepest coalmine in the world on his estate. A Liberal in politics, he was a parliamentary candidate for Cheshire North in 1847, but withdrew before the poll; he stood again in 1848 - interrupting his honeymoon for electioneering - but was defeated. High Sheriff of Cheshire, 1854. JP and DL for Cheshire and DL for Inverness-shire. An officer of 4th Battn., Cheshire Rifle Volunteers (Capt., 1860; Lt-Col., 1860; retired 1866). He was a keen sailor and soon after coming into his estates and acquiring a yacht he visited Iceland and sailed in Arctic waters; in 1855 he sailed to the Crimea and made himself useful delivering medical supplies and ferrying injured soldiers to hospital. He had a wide reputation for benevolence and charitable works and was President of the Manchester & Liverpool Agricultural Society, 1861, and of the Ashton-under-Lyne District Infirmary and the Dukinfield Library & Institute. When he acquired the Arisaig estate he built new cottages for so many workers as the estate could reasonably support and paid for the emigration of the remaining tenants to Australia, in sharp contrast to the brutal way in which many landlords cleared their estates. He married, 7 October 1847 at Donnybrook (Co. Dublin), Gertrude Emma (1827-62), second daughter of Lt-Gen. Sir Henry David James GCB, and had issue:
(1) Gertrude Susan Astley (1849-1920) (q.v.);
(2) Constance Charlotte Astley (1851-1935), born about January 1851; a traveller and diarist, whose diary of a journey to New Zealand in 1897-98 has been published; died unmarried, 19 November 1935; will proved 2 March 1936 (estate £51,270);
(3) Francis Dukinfield Astley (1853-80) (q.v.);
(4) Beatrice Emma Astley (1858-1923), born 1 October 1858; married, 11 October 1887 at St Margaret's, Westminster (Middx), John Frederick Cheetham MP (1834-1916), cotton manufacturer and banker, but had no issue; lived at 33 Princes Gardens, Kensington (Middx) and later at Dukinfield Lodge, Bournemouth; died there, 23 April 1923; will proved 31 May 1923 (estate £101,994).
He inherited Dukinfield Lodge and Fell Foot from his father in 1825 and came of age in 1846. Dukinfield Lodge was let to Charles Hindley MP from c.1833 until c.1850. Astley sold many of the paintings from Dukinfield Lodge in 1851 and the house was later occupied by his agent, William Bass until c.1860, when it was let to Thomas Cheetham. Astley bought the Arisaig estate (Inverness-shire) in 1848 and rebuilt the house there in 1863-64. He sold Fell Foot in 1859. A proposal that he should sell Dukinfield Lodge and its grounds to the town council as a cemetery was rejected in 1864 but the grounds were subsequently acquired for this purpose and the cemetery opened in 1866.
He died of tuberculosis at Torquay, 26 March 1868 and was buried at West Dean (Sussex); his will was proved 9 April 1868 (effects under £16,000). His wife died of tuberculosis, 31 October 1862 and was also buried at West Dean.

F.D. Astley (1853-80)
Astley, Francis Dukinfield (1853-80). Only son of Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley (1825-68) and his wife Gertrude Emma, daughter of Lt-Gen. Sir Henry David James GCB, born at Fell Foot, 29 May and baptised at Cartmel (Lancs), 30 June 1853. Orphaned at the age of fifteen he became a ward of Lord Abinger and Sir Willoughby Jones. He was educated at Eton and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and then joined the Scots Fusiliers (Capt.; retired 1880). He travelled to Canada with a party of friends for a sporting holiday in 1880, where he was accidentally drowned while shooting rapids on the River Natashquan in Quebec. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited Dukinfield Lodge and Arisaig House from his father in 1868 and came of age in 1874. He lived at 33 Princes Gardens, South Kensington (Middx). At the time of his death it was reported that his income was between £40,000 and £50,000 a year. By his will he provided each of his sisters with £25,000 and left Arisaig House and the remainder of his real estate to his eldest sister, Gertrude.
He died in a drowning accident in Canada, 2 August 1880 and his body was recovered four days later; his will was proved 25 October 1880 and 14 April 1881 (effects under £70,000).

Astley, Gertrude Susan (1849-1920). Eldest daughter of Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley (1825-68) and his wife Gertrude Emma, daughter of Lt-Gen. Sir Henry David James GCB, baptised 1 January 1850 at Cartmel. She married, 30 April 1883 at Holy Trinity, Brompton (Middx), Sir Arthur William Nicholson KCB (1852-1932), Clerk in the House of Commons, son of Capt. William Smith Nicholson, and had issue:
(1) Francis (k/a Frank) Astley Stuart Nicholson (b. 1884), born 14 July and baptised 19 August 1884 at Holy Trinity, Brompton (Middx); living in 1920;
(2) Charlotte Gertrude Astley Nicholson (1886-1961), baptised 5 May 1886; inherited the Arisaig estate on her father's death in 1932 and gave it in 1955 to her friend, Miss Joan Becher (she sold the house in the late 1970s but retained the estate until her death, unmarried and without issue, in 1994); died 8 March 1961;
(3) William Dukinfield Nicholson (1888-1915), born 13 May 1888; served in WW1 as Lt. in Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders; married, 8 June 1914, Barbara Florence (who m2, 2 October 1923, Marcel Charles Koechlin), daughter of Rev. John Martin, but had no issue; killed in action in Flanders, 23 February 1915 and was buried at Dickebushe New Military Cemetery (Belgium);
(4) Arthur Stuart Nicholson (1889-1914), born Jul-Sept 1889; educated at Winchester; served as 2nd Lt. in Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders from 1911; killed in action, 14 September 1914; his body was never recovered;
(5) Helen Constance Nicholson (b. 1893), baptised 22 January 1894 at Funtington (Sussex); unmarried and living in 1949.
She inherited the Arisaig estate from her brother in 1880. After her husband's death in 1932 it passed to their elder daughter.
She died 4 September 1920; her will was proved in Scotland and sealed in London, 9 December 1921 (estate £93,985). Her husband died in 1932.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1894, vol. 1, p. 44; The Ashton Weekly Reporter, and Stalybridge and Dukinfield Chronicle, 28 March 1868 - obituary of F.D.P. Astley; T. Middleton, Annals of Hyde and district, 1899, passimM. Girouard, The Victorian country house, 2nd ed., 1979, p. 430; P. de Figueiredo & J. Treuherz, Cheshire country houses, 1987, pp. 230-1, 261; J. Gifford, The buildings of Scotland: Highlands and Islands, 1992, p. 229; S. Kirk, Philip Webb, pioneer of Arts and Crafts architecture, 2005, pp. 104-11; M. Hyde & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Cumbria, 2010, pp. 552-3; C. Hartwell, M. Hyde, E. Hubbard & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Cheshire, 2nd edn., 2011, pp. 337, 522;

Location of archives

Astley & Nicholson families of Dukinfield and Arisaig: deeds and papers, 1779-1913 [Chetham's Library, Manchester, E8.1-8.2]

Coat of arms

Azure, a cinquefoil pierced ermine.

Can you help?

Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.

  • Can anyone supply internal photographs of Over Tabley Hall before its conversion into flats in 2007?
  • Can anyone provide further information about the development of Dukinfield Lodge or any illustrations of the interior prior to demolition in 1949?
  • Can anyone provide additional views of Fell Foot, especially any showing the entrance front of the house?
  • Can anyone provide an illustration of the James Gillespie Graham house at Arisaig?
  • Does anyone have more information about the dispersal of the Dukinfield Lodge estate in the 20th century?
  • Does anyone know more about the lives of the children of Gertrude Susan, Lady Nicholson and why her eldest daughter inherited the Arisaig estate rather than her son?
  • Can anyone supply a portrait or photograph of Gertrude Susan, Lady Nicholson?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 25 May 2016 and revised 31 March and 7 April 2019 and 29 January 2020. I am grateful to Edward Beaumont and the Rev. Peter Dyson for additional information.


  1. Are you still collecting information on Dukinfield Lodge?


    1. I am always keen to update or correct posts that appear here. If you can add to what I have said about Dukinfield Lodge, please get in touch through the contact form at the top of the right-hand side-bar. Thanks for getting in touch. Nick Kingsley


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.