Tuesday 25 April 2017

(259) Aykroyd of Birstwith Hall, baronets

Aykroyd of Birstwith Hall
The Aykroyds are one of the many Yorkshire families who made fortunes from the county's 19th century textile industries and purchased landed estates with their profits. In the case of the Aykroyds, the money came initially from the Bradford dyeing and finishing business established in 1835 by William Aykroyd (1808-79), which was greatly expanded by his sons, Alfred (1841-90) and William Edward Aykroyd (1847-1927). In 1898 the business was sold to the Bradford Dyers Association, of which Alfred's son, William Henry Aykroyd (1865-1947) became chairman until 1910, when he joined the board of T.F. Firth & Sons Ltd. of Brighouse and Heckmondwike, carpet manufacturers. In the 1920s, he was created a baronet and bought Grantley Hall, the great 18th century house of the Norton family, Barons Grantley, although this was sold again after his death in 1947 to provide capital to pay death duties.

This article concerns the descendants of William Edward Aykroyd (1847-1927), who followed a not dissimilar course. His three sons all had careers in the textile industry, but it was his second son, Frederick Alfred Aykroyd (1873-1949), who displayed the greatest commercial acumen and made the most money; by the 1920s he was chairman of four companies. In 1902 he married a daughter of Sir James Roberts, 1st bt., the businessman who had bought the failing company of Sir Titus Salt & Sons at Saltaire, and turned it into a successful business which he sold for £2m in 1920. During the First World War Aykroyd was engaged by the War Office to supervise the distribution of raw materials for industrial production, and in the 1920s he was again employed to advise on industrial policy. This public service earned him a baronetcy in 1929. By then he had already purchased Birstwith Hall, a considerably more modest seat than his cousin's palatial Grantley Hall, but one which his descendants have been able to retain.

When Sir Frederick Alfred Aykroyd died in 1949, his heir was his eldest son, Sir Cecil William Aykroyd (1905-93), 2nd bt., who was an unmarried and retiring man, with no taste for frequenting the board room, and interested chiefly in shooting. In 1946, he inherited from his uncle, Percy Clifford Aykroyd (1877-1946), the majority shareholding in the company he had spent his life building up, the Yorkshire Ramie Spinning Co, but finding that trading conditions were adverse, he simply closed it down and sold the assets. Under Sir Cecil's ownership Birstwith Hall gradually fell into decay, and after his mother died in 1964, part of it was subdivided into flats. 

When Sir Cecil died in 1993, the heir to the estate and baronetcy was his nephew, the present owner, Sir James Alexander Frederic Aykroyd (b. 1943), 3rd bt., who was much more in the mould of his grandfather, having spent his working life in marketing for the drinks industry. Taking stock of his inheritance in the mid-1990s, he realised he needed to release capital from the estate to pay death duties and put the house, farms and cottages in order. He accordingly sold one of the estate farms, leaving him with about 500 acres and sufficient funds to reverse the decay resulting from half a century of neglect. Birstwith Hall itself, which was not listed, was remodelled to remove unwanted 19th century service accommodation and create a new entrance hall and better family rooms. Happily, this task was assigned to one of the leading country house practices in the country, Adam Architecture, which created a sequence of attractive and liveable spaces within the shell of the essentially 18th century house.

Birstwith Hall, Yorkshire (WR)

Birstwith Hall in 2011. Image: © Maureen Rush ARPS
An irregular and informal house, set on a sloping site above the valley of the Tang Beck, a tributary of the River Nidd. The house is said to have been first built in the 17th century by the Day family, who named it Day Hall, but the majority of the present building was constructed in 1780, probably for William Day (d. 1804), by which time the present name was in use. In 1806 the house was advertised to be let and it was stated that the accommodation consisted of two parlours, a dining room, drawing room and service accommodation, with eight principal bedrooms on the first floor, and this was little changed when it was again let in 1888. There were, however, additions in the 19th century, chiefly of service accommodation.

The house was sold about 1830 to Rawdon Briggs (1792-1859) and passed to his son of the same name, and then to the latter's widow, who let the house. It was bought in about 1920 by Frederick Aykroyd (1873-1949), who was made a baronet in 1929.  During the ownership of his son, Sir Cecil Aykroyd (1905-93), 2nd bt., the house gradually fell into decay, and part of it was subdivided into flats. When Sir Cecil died, the estate passed to the present owner, Sir James Alexander Frederic Aykroyd (b. 1943), 3rd bt., who employed Hugh Petter of Robert Adam Architects to undertake a scheme of repair, reduction and replanning in 1994-96, which removed most of the Victorian service additions and created a series of new family rooms and a formal entrance hall in the body of the 18th century house. A fine garden has been created around the house by Lady Aykroyd.

Descent: William Day (d. 1804); to widow, Sarah Day (fl. 1806)...c.1840 to Rawdon Briggs (1792-1859); to son, Rawdon Briggs (1825-77); to widow, Louisa Briggs (1832-1917) who sold, perhaps c.1882, to Louisa Elizabeth Greenwood (1828-91), widow; to son, Charles Staniforth Greenwood (1857-1941), who sold c.1920 to Sir Frederick Aykroyd (1873-1949), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Cecil William Aykroyd (1905-93), 2nd bt.; to nephew, Sir James Alexander Frederic Aykroyd (b. 1943), 3rd bt. The house was let for a long period in the late 19th and 20th centuries, to tenants including John Henry Hope (fl. 1882), Mr & Mrs A. E. Leather (fl. 1894), W.H. Ferrand and Maj. Dove (fl. 1910).

Aykroyd family of Birstwith Hall, baronets

Aykroyd, William (1808-79). Son of Charles Aykroyd (d. 1856) of Thornton (Yorks) and his wife Susannah, born 4 May 1808. He established William Aykroyd & Co., dyers, in 1835, and took his sons into partnership when they came of age, after which the firm became William Aykroyd & Sons. He married, 22 February 1836 at St Peter, Bradford (Yorks WR), Mary (1813-81), daughter of Richard Constantine of Bradford, cooper, and had issue:
(1) Martha Aykroyd (1837-51), born 29 January and baptised at St Peter, Bradford, 24 February 1837; died young, Oct-Dec 1851;
(2) Alfred Aykroyd (1841-90) of Oakwood, Manningham (Yorks), born 29 January and baptised at St Peter, Bradford, 14 April 1841; a partner in William Aykroyd & Sons, dyers, from 1862 (chairman, 1879-90); JP for Yorkshire (WR); married, 4 June 1862 at White Abbey Methodist Chapel, Bradford, Ellen (d. 1925), daughter of Henry Milnes of Nearcliffe, Manningham, and had issue three sons (from the eldest of whom descend the Aykroyd baronets of Lightcliffe) and four daughters; died 18 April 1890;
(3) Joseph Aykroyd (1845-46), born 22 April and baptised at St Peter, Bradford, 23 May 1845; died in infancy, Apr-Jun 1846;
(4) William Edward Aykroyd (1847-1927) (q.v.);
(5) Mary Ann Aykroyd (1849-1943), born 21 March and baptised at St Peter, Bradford, 18 April 1849; died unmarried, 13 May 1943, aged 94; administration of goods granted 16 December 1943 (estate £125);
(6) Emily Aykroyd (1852-73), born 8 October 1852 and baptised at St Peter, Bradford, 3 December 1852; died unmarried, Jan-Mar 1873;
(7) Anne Eliza Aykroyd (1854-1931), born 16 December 1854 and baptised at St Peter, Bradford, 12 September 1855; married, 21 August 1877 at White Abbey Methodist Chapel, Bradford, John Holmes (b. c.1853), bank clerk, and had issue five children; died 20 April 1931; will proved 21 July 1931 (estate £1,016).
He lived at Bradford (Yorks WR).
He died 7 July 1879; his will was proved 13 January 1880 (effects under £8,000). His widow died 27 June 1881.

Aykroyd, William Edward (1847-1927). Son of William Aykroyd (1808-79) of Bradford and his wife Mary Constantine, born 11 March 1847. Educated as Sutton Grove Academy near Tadcaster (Yorks WR) but began his business career at the age of 16. He was a partner from 1868 in William Aykroyd & Sons, dyers, of Oakwood Dyeworks, and chairman of the company 1890-98, when it was sold to the Bradford Dyers Association.  A Conservative in politics, he was a member of the Bradford Board of Guardians, 1886-90 (Chairman, 1889-90) and of Bradford City Council, 1894-99 (Mayor, 1898); JP for Yorkshire (WR). He married, 7 April 1869 at White Abbey Wesleyan Chapel, Bradford, Alice (1848-1911), daughter of Henry Milnes of Manningham (Yorks), and had issue:
(1) Ada Aykroyd (1870-1941), born 18 January and baptised at White Abbey Wesleyan Methodist Church, Bradford, 20 March 1870; married, 28 June 1899 at St John's Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Bradford, Cromwell Walter Jones (1870-1968), merchant, son of John Lambert Jones of Dublin, and had issue one son and one daughter; lived at Dundrum (Co. Dublin) and later Eccles (Lancs); died 19 June 1941; will proved 10 July 1941 (estate £6,246);
(2) Henry Edward Ayrkroyd (1871-1929) of Manor House, Knaresborough (Yorks WR), born 31 August 1871; chemical engineer, worked in the family dyeing and finishing business; freeman of the city of London, 1922; served in First World War as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery (Lt-Col.); married, 30 January 1906 at St John, Roundhay, Leeds (Yorks WR),  Susan Eliza (k/a Belle) (c.1866-1946), daughter of James Clifford, gent. of Roundhay, but had no issue; died 31 March 1929;
(3) Sir Frederick Alfred Aykroyd (1873-1949), 1st bt. (q.v.);
(4) Beatrice Emily Aykroyd (1875-1956), born 21 March and baptised at Bradford Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, 30 May 1875; married, 2 June 1897 at St John's Wesleyan Chapel, Bradford, Joseph Harold Smith (c.1873-1947), worsted spinner, son of Isaac Smith, and had issue four children; died 23 April 1956;
(5) Percy Clifford Aykroyd (1877-1946) of White Lodge, Heaton, Bradford, born 27 April and baptised at Bradford Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, 11 June 1877; an officer in the 2nd West Riding Royal Engineers (2nd Lt., 1900); Chairman of the Yorkshire Ramie Spinning Co., c.1903-47; had musical interests and was a friend of the composer Arnold Trowell, who dedicated several works to him; married, 6 April 1921 at Salem Congregational Church, Manningham, Bradford, Constance Muriel (1885-1968), daughter of Lewis Gordon Hill of Lake View, Bradford, but had no issue; died 27 November 1946 and was buried at Kettlewell (Yorks WR); will proved 13 March 1947 (estate £70,861).
He lived in Bradford and later at Ashdown, Apperley Bridge (Yorks).
He died 1 March 1927; will proved 11 June 1927 (estate £104,768). His wife died 24 May 1911.

Aykroyd, Sir Frederick Alfred (1873-1949), 1st bt. Second son of William Edward Aykroyd (1847-1927) and his wife Alice, daughter of Henry Milnes of Manningham (Yorks), born 25 June 1873. Entered the family business of William Aykroyd & Sons, dyers, in 1892, and subsequently developed his own businesses in the wool trade; by the 1920s he was chairman of four companies. During the First World War he worked in the War Office, in charge of the distribution of raw materials to British and allied manufacturers. President of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, 1924-25; member of the Advisory Committee to the Board of Trade, 1927-29; President of the Commercial Travellers Association, 1927-29; President of the Single Yarn Spinners Association, 1927-29. He was created a baronet, 23 March 1929. JP for Yorkshire (WR) and Liberty of Ripon. High Sheriff of Yorkshire, 1941. He married, 8 April 1902, Lily May (1879-1964), elder daughter of Sir James Roberts, 1st bt., of Milner Field (Yorks WR), and had issue:
(1) Margaret Roberts Aykroyd (1903-81), born 10 February 1903; married, 2 September 1924, Col. George Hammond Aykroyd (1900-72), youngest son of Sir William Henry Aykroyd, 1st bt. of Lightcliffe, and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 27 July 1981; will proved 20 November 1981 (estate £168,175);
(2) Sir Cecil William Aykroyd (1905-93), 2nd bt. (q.v.);
(3) (Frederic) Howard Aykroyd (1907-78), born 10 October 1907; educated at Rugby and Jesus College, Cambridge (BA 1928); married, 12 July 1932, (Ruth) Joan (1904-92), elder daughter of Carlton Oldfield of Moor Hall, Harewood (Yorks WR), and had issue three daughters; died 24 August 1978; will proved 22 November 1978 (estate £164,078);
(4) Bertram Aykroyd (1915-83) (q.v.).
He purchased Birstwith Hall c.1920.
He died 31 December 1949 and was buried at Hampsthwaite; his will was proved 22 April 1950 (estate £294,257). His widow died 22 March 1964 and was buried at Hampsthwaite; her will was proved 3 July 1964 (estate £118,031).

Aykroyd, Sir Cecil William (1905-93), 2nd bt. Eldest son of Sir Frederick Alfred Aykroyd (1873-1949), 1st bt., and his wife Lily May, elder daughter of Sir James Roberts, 1st bt., of Milner Field (Yorks WR), born 23 April 1905. Educated at Charterhouse School and Jesus College, Cambridge (BA 1925). A director of the National Provincial Bank Ltd., Bradford division; Chairman of the Yorkshire Ramie Spinning Co., c.1947-52. He succeeded his father as 2nd baronet, 31 December 1949. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited Birstwith Hall from his father in 1949. At his death it passed with the baronetcy to his nephew, Sir James Alexander Frederic Aykroyd (b. 1943).
He died 23 June 1993 and was buried at Hampsthwaite (Yorks WR); his will was proved 13 December 1993 (estate £2,243,421).

Aykroyd, Bertram (1915-83). Third son of Sir Frederick Alfred Aykroyd (1873-1949), 1st bt., and his wife Lily May, elder daughter of Sir James Roberts, 1st bt., of Milner Field (Yorks WR), born 17 September 1915. Educated at Charterhouse School and Trinity College, Cambridge. Served in Second World War as an officer in Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Capt.; mentioned in despatches). He married 1st, 5 October 1938 (div. 1947), Margot (1918-2007), elder daughter of Leonard Graham-Bowen, and 2nd, 28 September 1949, Catalina (b. 1923), only daughter of Henry Marchington, and had issue:
(1.1) Jean Margaret Elizabeth Aykroyd (b. 1940), born 2 March 1940; married 1st, 8 September 1962 (div. 1971), Michael Frederick David Morley, elder son of Brig. Michael Frederick Morley MBE and had issue two sons; married 2nd, 1984, Col. Timothy John Seymour Eastwood; now living;
(1.2) Sir James Alexander Frederic Aykroyd (b. 1943), 3rd bt. (q.v.);
(2.1) Jeremy Charles Aykroyd (1950-82), born 28 July 1950; educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge; died unmarried, Oct-Dec. 1982;
(2.2) Rachel Aykroyd (b. 1952), born 14 March 1952; married, 1981 (div. 2002), Charles Patrick Helmore (who m2, 24 May 2003, Harriet S. de Bianchi Cossart), and had issue two sons; now living;
(2.3) Toby Nigel Bertram Aykroyd (b. 1955), born 13 November 1955; educated at Eton and St. Catherine's College, Cambridge (MA); heir presumptive to the baronetcy; married, 2005, Rona Louise, daughter of Gordon William Valentine Birnie of Inverdruie House (Inverness) and had issue one son; now living.
He lived at Treyford Manor (Sussex).
He died 13 December 1983; his will was proved 17 April 1984 (estate £153,008). His first wife married 2nd, 1947, Roy Smith MC (d. 1983) of Well Hall, Bedale (Yorks), was appointed a Dame of the British Empire for her work for the Conservative Party, and died 8 May 2007. His widow was living in 2015.

Aykroyd, Sir James Alexander Frederic (b. 1943), 3rd bt. Only son of Bertram Aykroyd (1915-83) and his first wife, Dame Margaret Smith, elder daughter of Leonard Graham-Bowen, born 6 September 1943. Educated at Eton, and the universities of Aix-en-Provence and Madrid. He succeeded his uncle as 3rd baronet, 23 June 1993. With James Buchanan & Co Ltd., 1965-83 (export director); managing director of Martini & Rossi SA, 1983-87; senior partner in Aykroyd Marketing Consultants since 1987; chairman of Alexander Muir & Son since 1993 and of Speyside Distillery since 2001. He married, 1973, Jennifer, daughter of Dr. Frederick William Marshall of Porthcawl (Glam.) and had issue:
(1) Gemma Jane Aykroyd (b. 1976); married, 2013, Gary Hayes;
(2) Victoria Louise Aykroyd (b. 1977); married, 2006, Toby Richard Hayes (b. 1975), son of Francis Brian Hayes of Cagebrook House (Herefs).
He inherited Birstwith Hall from his uncle in 1993, and remodelled it in 1994-96.
Now living.


Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 2003, pp. 198-99; H. Speight, Nidderdale and the garden of the Nidd, 1894, pp. 391-92; http://www.adamarchitecture.com/projects/historic-buildings/birstwith-hall.htm.

Location of archives

No substantial family archive is known to exist.

Aykroyd, Lt-Col. Henry Edward (1871-1929): personal correspondence, 20th cent. [West Yorkshire Archives Service, Calderdale branch, P 028]

William Aykroyd & Sons, dyers: memorandum and articles of association; shareholders' register etc., 1899-1971 [Lancashire Archives, DDVc]

Coat of arms

Azure on a chevron ermine between three stag's heads erased or as many crosses patoncé sable.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 25 April 2017 and updated 24 May and 15 June 2017 and 1 October 2020. I am most grateful to Margaret Waterson for additional information and corrections and to Dart Montgomery for a correction.


  1. Now applying for planning permission to destroy the beautiful dales village of Hampsthwaite with over 100 houses

  2. Credit must be given where credit is due. Birstwith Hall with its gardens is a magical place thanks to the current owners and the head gardener. Bravo!


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