Wednesday 22 July 2020

(424) Barton of Holme Hall and Smithills Hall

Barton of Smithills
This family were probably raised from relatively humble origins by John Barton (d. 1491), who became a wool trader and a merchant of the English staple at Calais. This was the period of maximum prosperity for the English wool industry, and John made a great deal of money. He acquired an estate at Holme-by-Newark (Notts) and built a new house there, which is said to have had in one window the inscription "I thanke God, and ever shall. It is the Sheepe hath payed for all". He also largely rebuilt the parish church at Holme and made provision in his will for rebuilding the north aisle of neighbouring North Muskham church too. At Holme he provided a fine cadaver tomb to commemorate his wife and himself, which was erected in his lifetime. His son, Ralph Barton and grandson, another John Barton (d. 1517) seem also to have been wool merchants. Both men married into the Radcliffes, a leading gentry family from Lancashire, and in this way Smithills Hall near Bolton (Lancs) came into their  possession, probably on the marriage of the younger John Barton with Cecily Radcliffe in 1486. Both parties to this marriage were probably children at the time - Cecily seems to have been about thirteen - but even so it seems surprising that their eldest son and heir, Andrew Barton (c.1498-1549) was not born until more than ten years later. Cecily seems to have died in 1506, Andrew was married in about 1514 (when he would have been about sixteen), and John made over the Smithills estate to him two years later before being received into a house of Observant Friars at Richmond (Surrey), where he died the following year. It seems likely that the family were, at this time, retainers of the Earls of Derby, for Andrew's marriage was to a cadet branch of the Stanley family and the Richmond friary was one of a number of religious houses in the Richmond area which the Earls supported. Marriage and responsibility for two substantial estates no doubt disrupted Andrew's education. He entered the Middle Temple in 1517 but there is no evidence that he completed his studies, and in his will he described himself as 'not learned in the law'. With his career as a justice of the peace and member of parliament, however, it is clear that he had completed the transition from merchant to gentleman begun by his great-grandfather, and he considerably enlarged the house at Smithills Hall, turning it from a hall house into a courtyard house by the addition of two long wings. He and his wife are said to have had eleven children, but the names of only eight are known; the others probably died in infancy as they were not recorded at the 1567 visitation of Lancashire.

Smithills Hall: a view of the house in 1874. The long ranges on either side of the courtyard were added by the Barton family in the early 16th century and the chapel on the extreme right in the 1580s.

Andrew's eldest son was Robert Barton (c.1524-80), about whom little is known. His sole claim to fame is that as a justice of the peace he was responsible for the arrest of the Protestant martyr, George Marsh, in 1554. Local tradition asserts that after being questioned at Smithills, Marsh stamped his foot so hard to re-affirm his faith that a footprint was left in the stone floor, which is still shown today. This story tells us that Robert Barton adhered to the Roman Catholic faith, at least until the end of Queen Mary's reign. By contrast, his younger brother, Ralph Barton (c.1525-92) was bred to the law and under Queen Elizabeth saw a rapid rise to judicial office and other Crown appointments which must imply that he had conformed to the Protestant faith. It seems likely that this religious difference between the brothers underlay Robert's attempt to bequeath a major part of his property to his widow Margery, rather than transmitting it to Ralph as his heir male. This led to legal action by Ralph against Margery and to accusations of trespass by Margery against Ralph which were eventually resolved by a compromise negotiated in 1586 by Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham: august arbitrators indeed. Although Ralph Barton eventually secured possession of the Smithills estate, he did not enjoy it for very long, for he died in 1592 and it passed to his son and heir, Ralph Barton (1556-1611). He was educated at Grays Inn but also at Cambridge University, and was High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1605-06. When he died in 1611 he divided his property between his two sons, with Thomas receiving the Nottinghamshire estate and the younger Ralph receiving Smithills, suggesting that the former was still seen as as more prestigious. Thomas was evidently resident in Nottinghamshire in 1618-19, when he was High Sheriff there and was knighted at Welbeck Abbey by King James I, and he may not have acquired Smithills until after his brother's death in 1645. His only surviving child was a daughter, Grace (d. 1658), who married the Hon. Henry Belasyse in 1627 and had two sons. She predeceased her father, on whose death the Barton properties passed to her elder son, Thomas Belasyse (d. 1700), 1st Earl Fauconberg, whose younger brother, Sir Rowland Belasyse (d. 1699) actually lived at Smithills in the late 17th century. The estate was sold by the next generation in the 1720s.

Holme Hall, Holme-by-Newark, Nottinghamshire

Holme Hall, Holme-by-Newark: the present house.
'A fair stone house' was built here by John Barton (d. 1491), a rich wool merchant, who  gave thanks for his blessings with the line
"I thanke God, and ever shall. It is the Sheepe hath payed for all" which is recorded to have been inscribed in one of the windows. The property descended in the Barton family to Sir Thomas Barton (d. 1659), and then passed through his only daughter to the Belasyse family. It seems to have declined into a farmhouse in the 18th century, and was demolished and replaced in about 1800 by the present five bay, two-and-a-half storey house in red brick, with a hipped slate roof. By the later 19th century the Dukes of Newcastle had become the principal landowners at Holme, and this house was perhaps built by them, either for a gentleman farmer tenant or for rental to a gentry occupier like Charles Cane of Southwell, who was living here in 1891. The house has a three-bay, three storey rear extension and is now privately owned, but offers bed and breakfast accommodation. The previous house seems not to be recorded, either in views or on estate maps, but it would be most interesting to know something of its appearance.

Descent: John Barton (d. 1491); to son, Ralph Barton (d. by 1505); to son, John Barton (d. 1517); to son, Andrew Barton (c.1498-1549); to son, Robert Barton (c.1524-80); to brother, Ralph Barton (c.1525-92); to son, Ralph Barton (1556-1611); to son, Sir Thomas Barton (c.1583-1659); to grandson, Thomas Belasyse (d. 1700), 1st Earl Fauconberg...

Smithills Hall, Bolton, Lancashire

An account of this house was published in this earlier post.

Barton family of Holme Hall and Smithills Hall

John Barton (d. 1491) from his
monument at Holme. 

Barton, John (d. 1491).
Parentage unknown. A wool merchant of the Calais staple and vintner. He paid for the rebuilding of Holme church in about 1485 and left money in his will for rebuilding the north aisle of North Muskham church. He married Isabella ?Gernon, and had issue:
(1) Ralph Barton (d. by 1505) (q.v.);
(2) Thomas Barton (fl. 1491); an executor of his father's will, by which he received 100 marks;
(3) Robert Barton (fl. 1491); evidently an Augustinian canon at Shelford Priory (Notts); received a bequest of 40 marks from his father;
(4) Richard Barton (fl. 1491); inherited 100 marks from his father and lands and tenements in Newark, Northgate and Osmundthorpe (Notts);
(5) Katherine Barton;
(6) Isabella Barton; married John Tamworth.
He acquired or inherited the manor of Holme-by-Newark (Notts) and built a new house there.
He died early in 1491 and was buried at Holme, where he and his wife are commemorated by a cadaver tomb; his will (dated 10 December 1490), was proved at York, 13 June 1491. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Barton, Ralph (d. by 1505). Eldest son of John Barton (d. 1491) and his wife Isabella ?Gernon. Wool merchant. He married, c.1467, Joan, daughter and co-heir of Sir Ralph Radcliffe of Radcliffe and Smithills (Lancs), and had issue:
(1) John Barton (d. 1517) (q.v.);
(2) Henry Barton;
(3) Elizabeth Barton; married Thomas Ardern;
(4) Stephen Barton;
(5) Christopher Barton; married Joan Molyneux (d. 1528) and had issue.
He inherited the Holme Hall estate from his father in 1491.
He was living in 1491, when he was an executor of his father's will, but died before 1505. His widow was living in 1505, but her date of death is unknown.

Barton, John (d. 1517). Eldest son of Ralph Barton (b. c.1445) and his wife Johanna Radcliffe, born about 1468? Wool merchant. On 12 July 1516 he retired from the world and entered the community of the Observant Friars at Richmond (Surrey), and was there professed. He married, 1486 (settlement 6 October), Cecily (c.1473?-1506), daughter of Ralph Radcliffe, and had issue including:
(1) Andrew Barton (c.1498-1549) (q.v.).
(2) Rev. Alexander Barton (d. 1568?), clerk in holy orders; probably the man who was vicar of Coldrede (Kent), by 1540 and later rector of Hunton (Kent), and died in 1568;
(3) Leonard Barton; died young;
(4) Francis Barton; died without issue.
He inherited the Holme estate near Newark from his father and Smithills Hall in right of his wife. In 1516, he settled his property on his son Andrew and became a friar.
He died early in 1517; an inquisition post mortem was held 2 April 1517. His wife died is said to have died in 1506.

Barton, Andrew (c.1498-1549). Eldest son of John Barton (d. 1517) and his wife Cecily, daughter of Ralph Radcliffe of Smithills Hall (Lancs), born about 1498. Educated at New Inn and Middle Temple (admitted 1517) and apparently later attached to the Inner Temple, but in his will described himself as 'not learned in the law'. MP for Lancashire, 1529; JP for Lancashire (by 1529) and Nottinghamshire, 1537-43.  He was named as a Commissioner for Tenths of Spiritualities in Nottinghamshire, 1535, and for the Subsidy in Lancashire, 1541 and 1543. In 1547 he received a general pardon. He married, c.1514, Anne alias Agnes (d. 1530), daughter of Sir William Stanley of Hooton (Ches.) and had issue seven sons and four daughters including*:
(1) Robert Barton (c.1524-80) (q.v.);
(2) Ralph Barton (1525-92) (q.v.);
(3) Henry Barton; died without issue and probably young;
(4) Thurston Barton (d. by 1578); married Anne (who m2, 5 August 1578 at Leigh (Lancs), Nicholas Starkie of Huntroyd), daughter of John Parr of Kempnall and Cleworth Hall (Lancs); died before 1578;
(5) Cecily Barton (fl. 1549); married, 1542 (contract 2 June), Robert Holt (fl. 1556) of Stubley (Lancs), gent., and had issue;
(6) Margaret Barton (d. by 1568); married, as his first wife, John Westby (c.1518-91) of Mowbreck Hall, Preston (Lancs); died before 1568;
(7) Dorothy Barton (b. c.1529); married, 1567?, Sir William Gerard (c.1525-81), kt., judge, MP for Chester, 1555-72, Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin (though he was not a clergyman), 1576-81, and had issue two sons and four daughters; living in 1581;
(8) Eleanor Barton (d. 1565); married, c.1554, Edward Singleton (1511-67) of Broughton Tower (Lancs), and had issue including five sons (two of whom became Jesuit priests); died 13 December 1565.
He was given the Smithills Hall estate by his father in 1516, and purchased additional manors and lands, including  Ramsgreave in Blackburn (Lancs) (formerly a property of Whalley Abbey) in 1540 and the manor of Oswaldtwistle, 1548. He sold Salford Hall (Lancs) in 1540.
He died 14 March 1548/9 and was buried at Bolton (Lancs); his will was proved at Chester in 1548/9. His wife died in 1530.
* Some sources also list a daughter, Sibell Barton (d. 1584) and a son, William Barton (c.1533-88), but they are not mentioned in the pedigree which Robert Barton provided to the 1567 visitation and were almost certainly not John's children as William's will of 1588 mentions a brother Robert then living.

Barton, Robert (c.1524-80). Eldest son of Andrew Barton (c.1498-1549) and his wife Anne alias Agnes, daughter of Sir William Stanley of Hooton (Ches), born about 1524. Probably remained a Roman Catholic. JP for Lancashire, in which capacity he was responsible for the arrest of the Protestant martyr, George Marsh, in 1554. He married*, c.1568, Margery (d. 1592), daughter of Sir Piers Legh of Bradley (Lancs), and had issue:
(1) Margaret Barton; died unmarried.
He inherited Smithills Hall from his father in 1549. At his death his widow inherited some of his property for life, but her possession of it was disputed by her brother-in-law, who entered the manor, dug coal there and made gifts of trees to third parties; the matter was settled by arbitration in 1586.
He died 10 September 1580. His widow married 2nd, Sir Richard Shuttleworth (c.1541-99) of Grays Inn and Gawthorpe Hall (Lancs), and died in 1592; administration of her goods was granted 9 May 1592.
* Some sources mention an earlier marriage to a Miss Shuttleworth, but I have found no evidence for this and it is probably a confusion arising from his widow's second marriage.

Barton, Ralph (1525-92). Second son of Andrew Barton (c.1498-1549) and his wife Anne alias Agnes, daughter of Sir William Stanley of Hooton (Ches), born 1525. Educated at Grays Inn (admitted 1542; called 1545; reader 1559, 1568; bencher, 1569). Barrister at law. MP for Wigan, 1558 and for Nottingham, 1563, 1571; Queen's Feodary in Nottinghamshire by 1560; Queen's attorney on the North Wales Circuit, 1563; Queen's Serjeant, 1564; Recorder of Nottingham, 1564-c.1582; Member of the Council for the Marches of Wales, 1570; JP for Nottinghamshire (by 1559), Herefordshire, Shropshire (by 1579) and Lancashire (by 1587). He had probably conformed to the Protestant religion by 1560. He married, 1555 (licence 14 June), Eleanor, daughter of Sir Robert Brereton and widow of [forename unknown] Brackenbury, and had issue nine children, including:
(1) Ralph Barton (1556-1611) (q.v.);
(2) Anne Barton (d. 1622); married Sir William Fleetwood (1563-1630) of Great Missenden (Bucks), MP for Preston, 1584, Poole, 1586 and Buckinghamshire, 1604-28, and had issue seven sons and seven daughters; buried at Great Missenden, 13 March 1621/2.
He disputed his sister-in-law's possession of the family's property, and the matter was settled in 1586 by the arbitration of Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham: the Smithills and Blackburn estates were listed among his possessions in his inquisition post mortem. 
He died 18 March 1591/2 and was buried at Holme (Notts); his will was proved 3 June 1592. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Barton, Ralph alias Randle (1556-1611). Elder son of Ralph Barton (1525-92) and his wife Eleanor Brereton, born 1556. Educated at Nottingham, Grays Inn (admitted 1573) and Caius College, Cambridge (admitted 1575). JP for Lancashire by 1600; High Sheriff of Lancashire, 1605-06. He married*, and had issue:
(1) Sir Thomas Barton (c.1583-1659), kt. (q.v.);
(2) Ralph Barton (d. 1645); married, 18 December 1612 at Bolton (Lancs), Elizabeth (d. 1620?), daughter of John Wood of Turton but apparently had no issue; buried at Bolton, 21 January 1644/5;
(3) Marie Barton (d. 1603); died unmarried and was buried at Bolton, 22 November 1603;
(4) Frances Barton (d. 1608); died unmarried and was buried at Bolton, 20 October 1608;
(5) Jane Barton (fl. 1615-24); married, before 1615, as his second wife, Francis Burdett (1578-1637) of Birthwaite (Yorks) and had issue four sons and two daughters.
He inherited Smithills Hall from his father in 1592. At his death he had settled his Nottinghamshire estate on his elder son and his Lancashire estate on his younger son, with remainder to his elder son.
He died at Smithills, 10 December 1611, and was buried at Bolton (Lancs) the following day; his will was proved 2 January 1611/2 and an inquisition post mortem was held 15 April 1612. His widow is probably the 'ould Mrs Barton' buried at Bolton, 3 January 1632/3.
* Some sources state he married Elizabeth, daughter of John Wood of Turton, but this was his son and namesake.

Barton, Sir Thomas (c.1583-1659), kt. Elder son of Ralph alias Randle Barton (1556-1611) and his wife Elizabeth, born about 1583. Educated at Queens' College, Cambridge (admitted 1599). JP for Lancashire (by 1616); High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, 1618-19. He was knighted at Welbeck Abbey, 13 August 1619. A commissioner for the subsidy of 1622. Governor of Blackburn Grammar School. He married, 20 October 1607 at Ossington (Notts), Christiana (1586-1623), daughter of William Cartwright of Ossington, and had issue:
(1) Grace Barton (c.1610-60); married, 1626/7 (settlement 4 January), the Hon. Henry Belasyse (1604-47), MP for Thirsk, 1625-26 and for Yorkshire, 1628, 1640-44, son of Sir Thomas Belasyse (1577-1653), 2nd bt., 1st Baron Fauconberg and 1st Viscount Fauconberg, and had issue seven sons and seven daughters; died 7 January 1659/60;
(2) An unnamed child (b. & d. 1623); buried at Bolton 12 July 1623.
He inherited Smithills Hall from his younger brother in 1645. At his death it passed to his grandson, Thomas Belasyse (d. 1700), 1st Earl Fauconberg, but was occupied by his younger brother, Sir Rowland Belasyse (d. 1699).
He died 17 July and was buried at Bolton (Lancs), 17 August 1659. His wife died following childbirth, and was buried at Bolton, 17 July 1623.

Principal sources

J. Throsby, Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire, 1797, vol. 3, pp. 153-60; VCH Lancashire, vol. 5, 1911, pp. 12-20; Sir N. Pevsner & E. Williamson, The buildings of England: Nottinghamshire, 2nd edn., 1979, p. 145; Hartwell, Hyde & Pevsner, The buildings of England: Lancashire - Manchester and the south-east, 2004, pp. 169-72; Sir John Baker, The men of court, 1440-1550, vol. 1, 2012, pp. 274-75;
History of Parliament biographies of Andrew Barton (d. 1549) and Ralph Barton (1525-92).

Location of archives

Barton family of Smithills: photocopies of pedigrees, transcripts, terrier, survey and rental of lands etc., 1491-1815 [Nottinghamshire Archives, DD/1609]

Coat of arms

Azure, a fess between three stags' heads cabooshed or, in fess point a mullet, sable.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone provide more information about the ownership history of Holme Hall after 1700, or any illustration of the Barton family's house there?
  • I should be most grateful if anyone can provide photographs or portraits of people whose names appear in bold above, and who are not already illustrated.
  • Any additions or corrections to the account given above will be gratefully received and incorporated. I am always particularly pleased to hear from members of the family who can supply recent personal information for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 22 July 2020 and updated 12 February 2023. I am most grateful for the assistance of Sir Nicholas Mander, bt. with the genealogy of this family.

1 comment:

  1. I remember seeing a rebus in one of the rooms, unfortunatley no pic. It's mentioned here: "Visitors can see Andrew Barton and his wife Agnes in the carvings. He can be recognised by his large forked beard while she has a flower and a linked hearts design beneath her portrait. Andrew also had carvings of his initials ‘AB’ and a ‘rebus’ put into the paneling. This is a pun on his name and shows a piece of timber (a ‘bar’) across a barrel (called in the Tudor times a ‘tun’), so Bar-tun or Barton."


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.