Monday 29 November 2021

(501/2) Hicks baronets, Beach, and Hicks-Beach, Earls St. Aldwyn - part 2

This post has been divided into three parts. Part 1 consists of my introduction to the family and its property, and a description of the houses built or acquired by the Hicks family. This second part contains descriptions of the houses built or acquired by the Beach and Hicks Beach families. Part 3 gives the biographical and genealogical details of all the branches of the family. 

Fittleton Manor House, Wiltshire

Fittleton Manor House: the entrance front in 2020. 
The front range is a modest but handsome five bay two storey house, built of brick banded with flint and with wooden cross-windows and a door hood on finely carved wooden brackets. The house was presumably commissioned by William Beach (1655-1741); it probably dates from the first two decades of the 18th century. Behind the front range are two parallel ranges descending in height, projecting from a rear wing at right angles to the front range, which may incorporate some earlier work. The lower of the two rear ranges has similar banded brickwork to the front range and may be of the same date; the middle range is plain brick, has plate glass sash windows, and looks later. Inside, there are panelled rooms and a handsome open-well staircase with twisted balusters.

Descent: John Fettiplace sold 1650 to William Adlam; sold 1665 to William Beach (d. 1686); to son, William Beach (1655-1741); to son, Thomas Beach (1684-1753); to son, William Beach (1719-90); to daughter, Henrietta Maria (1760-1837), wife of Michael Hicks (later Hicks-Beach) (1760-1830); to grandson, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach (1809-54), 8th bt.; to son, Sir Michael Edward Hicks-Beach (1837-1916), 9th bt. and later 1st Earl St. Aldwyn, who sold 1898 to War Office; the house sold back in 1901 to Michael Hugh Hicks Beach (1877-1916), Viscount Quenington; to sisters, Lady Susan Hicks Beach (1878-1965) and Lady Victoria Hicks Beach (1879-1963), who let to tenants until 1946 and then lived here until their deaths; sold 1968 to Col. Robert Sydney Dymock Maunsell (1920-2008); to widow, Hilda Maunsell (b. 1932), who sold 2021.

Keevil Manor, Wiltshire

A rectangular house with three gabled facades and an indented rear elevation on the north side, built about 1580 for Richard Lambert, a London grocer who had bought the manor from the Earls of Arundel twenty years earlier. The side elevations have three gables, but the wider south front has four, and a two-storey porch with Tuscan columns, added in 1611. 
Keevil Manor: the forecourt gateway of 1611. Image: Country Life.
Inside the porch are shell-headed niches similar to those at The Priory, Edington (Wilts), The Hall, Bradford-on-Avon (Wilts), Montacute House (Som.) and Cranborne Manor (Dorset), the latter two being known to be the work of William Arnold, who may therefore well be the mason here. The house has mullioned and transomed windows with a distinctive reversed hollow section, also found on the fireplaces inside. Inside the house, the hall screen is preserved in situ, with two large arched openings and diamond-cut rusticated surrounds, and there is undoubtedly some other old work, perhaps including the panelling in the hall and dining room, although so much was altered and moved around in the early 20th century that it is now difficult to be sure what apparently old work can be trusted. The timber spiral staircase, with solid oak treads winding around a central mast, would seem to be old but has at least been repaired and perhaps in part renewed.

Keevil Manor: the entrance front and side elevation in the early 20th century.
The house was little changed during the 230 years when it was owned by the Beach and Hicks Beach family, but when they decided to sell it in 1911 they stripped out some of the best panelling (with portraits of English monarchs down to and including Charles I) and sold it separately to Edgar Lister, who reused it in his restoration of Westwood Manor (Wilts). The house itself was sold to General Dickson, who called in Bishop & Etherington-Smith of London to rebuild the service wing, incorporating a three-storey water tower, and to extensively refit the interior of the house. They incorporated, copied, and moved around the old panelling and plasterwork which they found in the house in a very muddling way. Plaster ceilings are mentioned in the sale catalogue of 1911, and today there is a simple one in the hall and more elaborate ones in the dining room in the north-east corner of the house and the drawing room above, but these may be wholly of 1912-13. In the library (which was divided in 1912-13 from the south-west room), are handsome early Renaissance panels with rustic heads in profile, and good linenfold panels; this work must date from before 1580 and was perhaps reused when the house was built. It was not imported as part of the work of 1912-13, however, as it is mentioned in the 1911 sale catalogue.

Descent: Henry Howard (d. 1580), Earl of Arundel; sold 1560 to Richard Lambert (d. 1588?); to nephew, Edward Lambert (d. 1612); to daughters, who died unmarried; to Thomas Lambert; to grandson, Thomas Lambert, who sold house in 1678 to William Beach (d. 1686) and estate in 1681 to William Beach (1655-1741); to son, Thomas Beach (1684-1753); to son, William Beach (1719-90); to daughter, Henrietta Maria (1760-1837), wife of Michael Hicks (later Hicks-Beach) (1760-1830); to younger son, William Hicks Beach (later Beach) (1783-1856); to son, William Wither Bramston Beach (1826-1909); to son, Archibald William Hicks Beach (1859-1924), who sold 1911 to General John Baillie Ballantyne Dickson (1842-1925); to widow, Kathleen Frances Dickson (c.1860-1953); sold to Richard Vernon (1900-96); to son, Christopher Miles Vernon (b. 1932). The house was let in the later 19th and early 20th centuries to Col. Sir John William Wallington (1822-1910), the son-in-law of William Beach (1783-1856).

Netheravon House, Wiltshire

Netheravon House: the entrance front today.
The house is an astylar five by three bay, two-and-a-half storey house with a plain plat-band above the ground floor windows, a Palladian doorcase, and a low-pitched hipped roof partly concealed by a parapet. To all external appearances, it looks like a house of the 1770s, but in fact it is known to have been designed in 1735-36 as a hunting box for Henry Somerset (later Scudamore) (1707-45), 3rd Duke of Beaufort, who bought the estate in 1734. 

Netheravon House: detail of an equestrian portrait of the 3rd Duke of Beaufort by John Wootton, showing the house in 1744.
The architect was Francis Smith of Warwick, who was also working for the Duke at Badminton House (Glos) at the time.  There are plans and elevations of alternative designs by Smith and James Gibbs (and perhaps the Hiorne brothers) at Badminton, but no designs for the executed scheme; that Smith was the contractor is demonstrated by notes of payments to many of his regular team of craftsmen (Thomas Hands, carpenter; Edward Poynton, marble carving; Thomas Eborall, joinery and others) in his notebook in the Bodleian Library. The lack of external ornament is remarkable for such an early date, although the impression of simplicity may have been strengthened by subtle changes made after William Beach bought the estate in 1773. 

Netheravon House: survey plan of the ground floor by Sir John Soane, 1791. Image: Soane Museum.
When Michael and Henrietta Maria Hicks Beach came into possession in 1790, they brought in Sir John Soane, then working at Williamstrip Park (q.v.), who added an extension at the rear in 1791. Soane's drawings include a survey plan of the house at it existed, which shows that the existing arrangement whereby a fairly plain staircase (no doubt made by Thomas Eborall, like the staircase at Badminton) with three turned balusters to each tread, rises from an off-centre entrance hall, set behind the doorcase and the window to its right. Many other rooms preserve extremely plain early 18th century panelling, which perhaps was felt suited to the essentially masculine preserve of a hunting box. 

Netheravon House: the entrance hall and staircase today.
The Soane addition of 1791 projects at the rear, where there is an additional basement storey to accommodate the fall of the ground. Soane extended this basement level across the full five bay width of the house, but only carried the central three bays up to the same height as the front block, so this section of the elevation is of four storeys. The ground floor windows were evidently lengthened at some time, so they now reach to floor level.

Netheravon House: the garden front, showing Soane's addition and the 20th century alterations which have unbalanced the facade.
Image: Trish Steel. Some rights reserved.
In the 19th century the estate was generally let by the Hicks Beach family, and in 1898 it was sold, with Fittleton, to the War Office, for use in connection with the massive Salisbury Plain training area. The house became the Officers' Mess of the Cavalry Training School, and was looked after with care as a result. Externally, the only changes of the 20th century were to build up the north-west corner of the house to the same height as the rest and to add a single storey to the north-east corner. In recent years, the house became surplus to military requirements and it was sold and restored as two dwellings, with the original block forming one house and the Soane and later additions another, with a separate entrance.

Descent: built for Henry Somerset (later Scudamore) (1707-45), 3rd Duke of Beaufort; to brother, Charles Noel Somerset (1709-56), 4th Duke of Beaufort; to son, Henry Somerset (1744-1803), 5th Duke of Beaufort, who sold 1773 to William Beach (1719-90); to daughter, Henrietta Maria (1760-1837), wife of Michael Hicks (later Hicks-Beach) (1760-1830); to grandson, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach (1809-54), 8th bt.; to son, Sir Michael Edward Hicks-Beach (1837-1916), 9th bt. and later 1st Earl St. Aldwyn, who sold 1898 to War Office.

Williamstrip Park, Gloucestershire

Henry Powle (d. 1643), whose family had been established in Coln St Aldwyn for some years, bought the estate in about 1615 and probably built the earliest house on this site of which anything is known. This was a square Jacobean building of two storeys with a full-height porch on the south front and shallow bay windows to either side, for which in 1672 a later Henry Powle paid tax on 15 hearths. It may have been not unlike the Abbey House at Cirencester, as recorded by John Kip. The second Henry Powle was a busy lawyer and parliamentarian, who was Speaker of the House of Commons in 1689 and Master of the Rolls, 1690-92. His career seems to have occupied him right up until his death, and there is no evidence that he made substantial alterations to the house. Indeed, in 1676-7, he was in negotiations with Sir William Coventry for the sale of the estate. It would seem to have been his daughter Catherine and her husband Henry Ireton who first transformed Williamstrip into a Classical house. In 1792, Bigland said that 'the mansion house was built in the beginning of this century', and the work was evidently complete by the time Kip's view was made c.1710, providing a fairly close dating for their work. A roughly contemporary survey of the estate describes the house as “a faire house, newly built & in very good repaire”. New seven‑bay, two‑storey east and west fronts with projecting three‑bay centres and dormers were built to encase the side elevations of the old house, and these were provided with sash windows; considerable internal alterations must have been undertaken at the same time. The old entrance front on the south does not seem to have been greatly altered, but from this time onwards the new door on the west side seems to have been regarded as the main entrance. To the north‑east of the house was a formal garden in which most of the plants seem to have been for kitchen use.

Williamstrip Park: detail of Kip's view of the estate, c.1710. The house had then recently been classicised.
In 1751 the estate was sold to Humphrey Mackworth Praed, who employed Ferdinando Stratford to draw a plan of the grounds in 1754 which shows that the layout of the house and outbuildings shown by Atkyns was both accurate and largely unchanged, although the formal kitchen garden had been swept away. Mackworth Praed sold the estate to Samuel Blackwell of Cirencester in about 1760, and by about 1771 he had added a third storey to the house, with pediments on the east and west and canted bows on the west side. The south side was also given sash windows at this time, if this had not been done earlier. On the west front, Diocletian windows were unusually placed above the canted bows, and a similar Diocletian window which appears under the pediment on the east front is no doubt of the same period. No architect is known for these changes, but the final result of such piecemeal adaptations can hardly have been satisfactory. Some landscaping of the grounds had also been carried out since 1754, with the forecourt walls and outbuildings that had surrounded the Ireton house being swept away and replaced by greensward. In 1778 Blackwell agreed with his neighbour, the Roman Catholic Sir John Webb of Hatherop, that 'whereas plans for improvements have from time to time been proposed by each to the other, and whereas the improvements have in part taken place', they should not stand in one another's way in executing a scheme drawn out by Richard Woods, who may thus have been responsible for the earlier work as well. Woods, who was based in Essex, was not an obvious choice for landscaping work in Gloucestershire, but his clientele was very largely Catholic, and it is likely that he was recommended to the Catholic Webb, who had Dorset estates, by his former clients Edward Weld of Lulworth or Lord Arundell of Wardour Castle. It is not certain what, if anything, was done in pursuance of the agreement, but it is possible that the pond at Williamstrip was of Woods’ design.

Williamstrip Park: the entrance front as altered by Sir John Soane in 1791. Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.

Williamstrip Park: the garden front before the demolition of the conservatory in 1946.

After Samuel Blackwell died in 1785 his estate was sold to Michael Hicks and his wife, Henrietta Maria, following an agreement of 1784 between Blackwell and her father, William Beach. With the combined family estates behind them and the fortune the Beaches had recently inherited from James Harding, the young couple could well afford to employ Sir John Soane to carry out a further remodelling of Williamstrip. Their choice of architect may well have been influenced by the remodelling Soane had just completed at Fairford Park in 1789. The south front was rebuilt as a flat sash-windowed facade, and the west front was refaced as a nine-bay elevation with shallow segmental bows in place of the existing canted bays. Soane also designed a two‑storey kitchen wing on the north and new stables, and extensively remodelled the interior of the house with new joinery and marble chimneypieces, and the installation of a domed toplight over the staircase. The finest room was his new library, behind the northern bow of the west front. For the first time since the 17th century, the house now presented a more or less unified exterior; only the east front remained substantially of the earlier periods. Michael Hicks Beach also made extensive improvements to the estate, including the building of a new lodge on the Burford road of c.1810 and another, at the western end of Hatherop village, in 1822, which was designed by Richard Pace of Lechlade in the Gothick style. The Burford road lodge and another, east of Coln St. Aldwyns village, were replaced in the late 19th century, probably to the designs of Henry Miles, the estate foreman, and the Pace lodge was demolished in the mid 20th century.

Later generations of the family reworked the interiors of the house on a number of occasions. In 1832‑34, shortly after he had inherited, Sir M.H. Hicks Beach (1809-54), 8th bt., carried out extensive internal alterations and redecoration and added the Ionic portico on the west front. Daniel Bingham of Cirencester, an upholsterer who was one of the principal suppliers, received no less than £728 on a single bill, but it is not known who the architect was. Sir Michael Edward Hicks Beach, 9th bt. (later Earl St Aldwyn), who inherited in 1854, employed David Brandon in 1865‑66 to make further alterations to the house. The ground floor fenestration of the south front was changed, with the addition of the the canted bays that exist now and the blocking up of other windows; the larger of the two rooms behind the south front was changed from a dining room to a drawing room and its 18th century decoration, including a screen of columns, was removed; a billiard room and conservatory were built at the north-east corner of the house; a new dining room was created behind the east front; and plate glass was inserted in all the ground floor sash windows. The central top-lit staircase hall was apparently redecorated to a scheme by J.D. Crace, later removed, and a new handrail and balusters were installed. Throughout all these changes, however, the house preserved an excellent series of chimneypieces that were presumably supplied at the time of Soane’s alterations.

Williamstrip Park: the new wing added to the house to the design of Craig Hamilton, 2012.
A further phase of alterations took place in 1946, when the 2nd Earl St Aldwyn employed Walter Godfrey to remove Soane's library, demolish the Victorian billiard room and conservatory, and truncate the kitchen wing on the north side of the house. In 2007, the long ownership of the house by the Hicks Beach family came to an end, when it was sold to John Kennedy, chairman of Vetco International, an oil services company. Mr. Kennedy engaged Craig Hamilton, the classical revival architect who had successfully extended Upton House, Tetbury, to make good the damage done to the house by the post-war demolitions. In 2012 he built a new wing with a classical facade adjoining the east elevation, where the demolition of the Victorian conservatory left a nasty gap, and refreshed the rather tired interior of the house, including the creation of a new neo-classical library. Once work on the house was complete, attention turned to the gardens, where an ambitious new layout of radiating semi-circles was laid out to the designs of Colvin & Moggridge by 2016, and to the construction of a new detached swimming pool building and a new chapel, both designed by Craig Hamilton.

Descent: sold c.1615 to Henry Powle (d. 1643); to son, Richard Powle; sold 1657 to brother Henry Powle (1630-92); to daughter Catherine (d. 1714), wife of Henry Ireton (c.1651-1711); to cousin, John Powle and William Forester, who sold 1751 to Humphry Mackworth Praed; sold c.1760 to Samuel Blackwell (d. 1785); sold to Michael Hicks (later Hicks-Beach) (1760-1830); to grandson, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach (1809-54), 8th bt.; to son, Sir Michael Edward Hicks-Beach (1837-1916), 9th bt. and 1st Earl St. Aldwyn; to grandson, Michael John Hicks-Beach (1912-92), 2nd Earl St. Aldwyn; to son, Michael Henry Hicks-Beach (b. 1950), 3rd Earl St. Aldwyn; sold c.2007 to Mr & Mrs John Kennedy.

Oakley Hall (formerly Hall Place), Hampshire

Oakley Hall in Hampshire can be identified as a separate estate from the medieval period onwards. Technically, the house lay within the parish and manor of Deane (the next village to Oakley), and until the 18th century it was known simply as Hall or Hall Place. But in 1620 it was sold by the Ayliffe family to George Wither (d. 1666), owner of the adjoining manor of Church Oakley, and thereafter gradually came to be known by its present name. Wither was the author of A collection of emblems (1635), in which he wrote English verses to illustrate the allegorical plates made by Gabriel Rollenhagen and Crispin van Passe more than 20 years earlier in Holland. The Scottish author and poet George Gilfillan wrote that “Wither was a man of real genius, but seems to have been partially insane”. A hundred years later, Wither's book of emblems was used by John Wood of Bath as his source for the designs on the metopes of the frieze in The Circus at Bath. Sadly, nothing is known of the house that existed at Oakley Hall at this time, although there is evidence that in the early 18th century an informal parkland was laid out for Charles Wither, who was Surveyor General of the Royal Woods and Forests. In that capacity he created the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park to the designs of Charles Bridgeman, and it is possible that he either learned enough in the process to design for himself, or else imported one of those working on the royal gardens to design for him at Oakley.

Oakley Hall: the entrance front built c.1790 for Wither Bramston, and the stone porch added c.1860 by T.H. Wyatt.
After the death of Charles Wither in 1731, the estate passed by marriage to the Bramstons, and Wither Bramston (d. 1832), a friend of the author Jane Austen - who lived nearby at Steventon - rebuilt the house, which was 'nearly completed' in 1792. From this time dates the nine-bay north front, of two and a half storeys, with big three-bay bows at either end. At the rear of this house two wings projected to the south on either side of a narrow courtyard. When Wither Bramston died without issue in 1832, the estate passed to his first cousin once removed, William Hicks Beach (later Beach) (1783-1856) of Keevil House (Wilts), who subsequently divided his time between the two estates. Beach's son, William Wither Bramston Beach MP (1826-1901), brought in T.H. Wyatt to remodel the house in 1860. 

Oakley Hall: the Victorian garden front and conservatory created by T.H. Wyatt for William Wither Bramston Beach (1826-1901)
Wyatt created a thoroughly Victorian ensemble, providing the forecourt, the elaborate stone porte cochere, most of the service wing, the prominent water tower and a large conservatory with a glazed dome. He also infilled the space between the rear wings, and made a new south facade. The interior of the house was also completely remodelled in a typically eclectic style, with a galleried saloon, Florentine Renaissance style drawing room and Baroque library with fitted bookcases and a coffered wooden ceiling. The gardens were laid out by Edward Milner at the same time. 

Oakley Hall: the Victorian garden front today.
The house remained in the Hicks Beach family until the estate was sold in its entirety in 1933, following the bankruptcy of William Guy Hicks Beach. In 1940 it was taken over by Hilsea College, the original buildings of which in Portsmouth had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy for wartime use. The school occupied the house until 1992. It then became a care home, and it was later a wedding venue until a major refurbishment in 2014 saw it open as an hotel.

Descent: sold 1620 to George Wither (d. 1666); to nephew, Gilbert Wither (d. 1676); to son, Charles Wither (d. 1697); to son, Charles Wither (d. 1731), Surveyor General of Woods and Forests; to daughter, Henrietta Maria, wife of Edward Bramston of Boreham (Essex); to son, Wither Bramston (d. 1832); to first cousin once removed William Hicks Beach (later Beach) (1783-1856); to son, William Wither Bramston Beach (1826-1901); to son, Maj. William Archibald Hicks Beach (1859-1924); to son, William Guy Hicks Beach (1891-1953); sold 1933 after his bankruptcy in 1931 to Kenneth Carlisle; sold 1940 to Hilsea College; sold 1992 for use as a care home and later a wedding venue and an hotel.

Principal sources

Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 2003, pp. 3466-68; S. Hicks Beach, A Cotswold family, 1909; VCH Wiltshire, vol. 8, 1965, pp. 250-63; VCH Wiltshire, vol. xi, 1980, pp. 142-51, 165-81;

Location of archives

Hicks, Beach and Hicks Beach family, Earls St. Aldwyn: deeds, manorial records, estate and family papers, personal and political papers, c.1250-20th century [Gloucestershire Archives, D1866, D2440, D2455]; deeds and legal papers concerning London and Gloucestershire property, 1472-18th century [The National Archives, C107/78-80]; Oakley (Hants) estate papers, 16th-17th cents [Hampshire Archives]

Can you help?

  • If anyone can provide additional photographs of the houses shown here, especially an internal views of Keevil Manor, I should be most interested to see them.
  • If anyone can offer further information or corrections I should be most grateful. I am always particularly pleased to hear from current owners or the descendants of families associated with a property who can supply information from their own research or personal knowledge for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 29 November 2021. I am grateful to Kirsty Rodwell and Craig Hamilton for their assistance in preparing an earlier version of the account of Williamstrip Park.

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