Thursday 25 August 2022

(523) Beckett of Somerby Park and Yorkshire, baronets and Barons Grimthorpe

Beckett, Barons Grimston 
This post has been divided into two parts. This part provides an introduction to the history of the family and an account of the many houses which the family owned in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, while part 2 includes the genealogical and biographical information about members of the family.

The fortunes of this family were founded by John Beckett (1704-67), with whom the genealogy in part 2 begins. His father was a wire-drawer and he began his career as a grocer's boy in Barnsley (Yorks WR), but despite these humble beginnings he succeeded in establishing a grocery business of his own and making sufficient money to build a handsome house in Church St., Barnsley, with a view to retirement, and also to purchase the manor of Corringham in Lincolnshire, from which he derived a rental income to support his retirement. John had two surviving sons, the younger of whom, Joseph Beckett (1751-1840), took over the Barnsley grocery business and expanded into linen manufacture, bleaching, and eventually into banking. The elder son, later Sir John Beckett (1743-1826), 1st bt., was set up as a woollen merchant in Leeds (Yorks WR) and quickly diversified into the import and export of goods to Portugal and by 1774 into banking. The initial banking partnership of Wilson, Arthington, Beckett and Calverley went through several changes of name in its earliest years as the partnership evolved, but John Beckett was the senior partner by the late 1780s and soon after he was succeeded as managing partner in the 1820s by his sons Christopher Beckett (1777-1847) and William Beckett (1784-1863), the firm became known by the name Beckett & Co., which name it retained until it was merged with the Westminster Bank in 1921. At the time of the 1825 banking crisis, the bank earned a reputation for prudence and solidity and saved many customers from financial embarrassment: in an industry built on mutual trust between bankers and their depositors, such a reputation was to a degree self-reinforcing, and it served the bank well throughout the 19th century. It may also help to explain why the partners acted so forcibly against the future 2nd Lord Grimthorpe in 1904, when his personal financial standing was in question. 

Banking was unquestionably profitable for Sir John, and in 1786 he purchased the Somerby Park estate adjoining the manor of Corringham which his father had acquired. His eldest son and namesake, Rt. Hon. Sir John Beckett (1775-1847), 2nd bt., was a partner in the bank but not active in the management of the business. He was trained as a barrister and quickly went into the civil service. He was Under-Secretary for Home Affairs for eleven years, 1806-17, and it seems likely that it was his service in this role which caused his father to be created a baronet in 1813. He was at this time unmarried, and by having the honour conferred on his father (who had eight sons) rather than himself, he made it almost certain that the title would descend in the family for many years, as it has. In 1817, aged 42, he married Lady Anne Lowther, daughter of the 1st Earl of Lonsdale but the marriage remained childless. Lord Lonsdale facilitated his entry into Parliament, and he sat intermittently as an MP between 1818 and 1837, while also serving as Judge Advocate General, 1817-27, 1828-32 and 1834-35. After the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832 he rather lost interest in politics, and spent more of his time on business affairs, becoming a promoter of railway companies. He inherited the baronetcy and Somerby Park from his father in 1826, but bought a grander and more up-to-date house at New Grange, Headingley (which he renamed Kirkstall Grange) in 1832, presumably as a base nearer Leeds and his business intersts than the rather remote Somerby.  

When the 2nd baronet died in 1847 he left Kirkstall Grange to his younger brother, William Beckett (1784-1863) and Somerby Park to his next surviving brother, Sir Thomas Beckett (1779-1872), 3rd bt. In the same year, Sir Thomas inherited Meanwood Park from his brother Christopher (who had bought it in 1824), but Meanwood continued to be occupied by their sisters Mary (d. 1858) and Elizabeth (d. 1864) until their deaths, and Sir Thomas apparently lived chiefly at Somerby. Sir Thomas was married but had no sons, and his property passed first to his elder daughter Mary Beckett (1827-1915), and then to the son of his younger daughter Elizabeth (1829-85), the wife of Sir Henry Hickman Bacon (1820-72), 10th/11th bt. In this way, Somerby and Meanwood passed out of the Beckett family; Meanwood was sold in 1921 but Somerby remains part of the Bacon family's Thonock estate today, although the house has largely disappeared.

On the death of the 3rd baronet without sons in 1872, the title passed to his last surviving brother, Sir Edmund Beckett (1787-1874), 4th bt. Sir Edmund, who had taken the name Beckett Denison in 1816 in accordance with the will of his wife's great-great-aunt, reverted to Beckett only on inheriting the family baronetcy. Sir Edmund was a partner in the family bank, Chairman of the Yorkshire Post newspaper, MP for the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1841-47, 1848-59 and principal promoter of the Great Northern Railway, and seems to have widely regarded as brusque and unsympathetic. His wife brought him an estate at Grimthorpe near Pocklington (Yorks ER) - not to be confused with Grimethorpe (Yorks WR) - and he inherited Kirkstall Grange from his brother William in 1863, but he seems to have lived mainly at Doncaster (Yorks WR). Sir Edmund and his wife had three sons and five daughters. The eldest son, Edmund Beckett Denison (later Beckett) (1816-1905) is perhaps the most interesting, though certainly not the most likeable, member of the family. Trained as a barrister, he made a fortune at the parliamentary bar nursing railway bills through Parliament before refocusing on ecclesiastical law and becoming Chancellor and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of York, 1877-1900. He was extremely wealthy, leaving an estate valued at over £1.5m at his death in 1905. He succeeded his father as 5th baronet in 1874 and followed his father's example in changing his name to Beckett only. In 1886 he was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Grimthorpe, with a special remainder to the heirs male of his father, which ensured that the title would pass to a brother or nephew when he died without issue. He also used his formidable debating skills as a vigorous and combative participant in controversial debates on religion, science and architecture, and his renowned pugnacity is apparent in portrait photographs. He is, however, remembered today chiefly as an amateur but very able clockmaker, whose works included the great clock in the Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament, and as an equally amateur but much less gifted architect, whose radical 'restoration' of St. Albans Abbey was much criticised in his lifetime and later. He designed his own house, Batchwood Hall, on the edge of St. Albans, a competent but dull essay in a late classical style, which was soon remodelled after his death.

Lord Grimthorpe had two younger brothers. Christopher Beckett Denison (1825-84) and William Beckett Denison (1826-90). Christopher, who was unmarried, spent twenty years in the Bengal Civil Service before returning to Leeds, becoming a partner in the family bank and a director of the Great Northern Railway, and Conservative MP for the West Riding, 1868-80. William was senior partner in the family bank, Chairman of the Yorkshire Post, a director of several railway and canal companies and MP for East Retford, 1876-80 and Bassetlaw, 1885-90. From 1874 he rented Nun Appleton Hall (Yorks WR). He was killed in an accident on the London & South Western Railway at Wimborne Minster, while on his way to visit his son-in-law, Col. Chandos-Pole, then living nearby. He was married and left three sons and four daughters, the eldest of whom, Ernest William Denison (later Beckett) (1856-1917) also succeeded his uncle, as 2nd Baron Grimthorpe, in 1905.

The 2nd Lord Grimthorpe seems like the odd man out in his family. Over several generations the family produced serious and conservative bankers, lawyers, businessmen and politicians who steadily built wealth and whose expenditure was adequate to express the dignity of their position but never flamboyant or reckless. The 2nd Baron had a conventional upbringing at Eton and Cambridge, joined the bank as a partner in 1878, and succeeded his father as owner of the Yorkshire Post. He was Conservative MP for Whitby, 1885-1905, and he had the reputation of being a fearless critic and trenchant debater in Parliament, characteristics which seem related to those of his uncle, the 1st Baron. But there was another side to him. After Cambridge he spent a year travelling abroad, and again in 1882 he spent several months in France and Italy, where he met his American wife, who reputedly brought him a dowry of $500,000. He cultivated exotic acquaintances, including Oscar Wilde, and amused himself by introducing them to his conventional neighbours in Leeds. After his wife died in 1891 he began to take mistresses, the best known of whom were Alice Keppel and José Brink, both of whom later had relationships with King Edward VII. He became a patron of the arts, and was particularly associated with the French sculptor, Auguste Rodin, who he commissioned to make a bust of his fiancé, Eve Fairfax. He never married Miss Fairfax, who instead became a source of inspiration to Rodin. Although Lord Grimthorpe began as an extremely wealthy man, his wealth declined as a result of his expenditure and some poor investment decisions: he took a particular loss as a result of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, which wiped out significant property investments in that city. His actions and his reputation alarmed his fellow partners in the bank, and in 1904 they took the drastic step of expelling him from the partnership. To recoup, he sold Kirkstall Grange and Batchwood Hall and also a house in Surrey and most of his art collection. He then shook the dust of England off his feet, bought a farmhouse at Ravello (Italy) and enlarged it to his own designs into a romantic castle, the Villa Cimbrone, set in a dramatic and now famous garden. He died in 1917, leaving an estate in England worth only £30,000.

The only legitimate son of the 2nd Baron was Lt-Col. Ralph William Ernest Beckett (1891-1963), 3rd Baron Grimthorpe, who succeeded his father while a schoolboy at Eton. He became a senior officer in the Yorkshire Hussars, serving in both World Wars, and acquired Easthorpe Hall near Castle Howard as a base in the early 1920s. From here he ran the Middleton Fox Hounds and later a horse-racing stud. He divorced his first wife in 1945 and married his long-term mistress, Angela Lycett-Green, by whom he had almost certainly fathered a daughter ten years earlier; a son was born to the couple three months after their marriage. He died in 1963 and Easthorpe was sold in 1965, becoming a night club which burned down little more than a year later. The 3rd Baron was succeeded by the eldest son of his first marriage, Brigadier Christopher John Beckett (1915-2003), 4th Baron Grimthorpe, who was a career soldier until his retirement in 1968 and shared his father's passion for horses and racing. He bought Westow Hall in the East Riding from the Sledmere estate in 1957, and at his death this passed to his son, Edward John Beckett (b. 1954), 5th Baron Grimthorpe, who has built an illustrious career in the racing industry and is now Chairman of the National Stud. Westow Hall is not currently occupied by the family but is available for short-term lets.

The younger sons of William Beckett Denison (later Beckett) (1826-90) were Sir William Gervase Beckett (1866-1937), 1st bt., and Rupert Evelyn Beckett (1870-1955), both of whom dropped the Denison name at the same time as their father in 1886. Rupert entered the family bank and became the senior partner in 1920, but quickly thereafter steered the firm into a merger with the Westminster Bank. He became a director of the merged concern, and subsequently Vice-Chairman, 1927-30 and Chairman, 1931-50, as well as Vice-Chairman of the Institute of Bankers. When he died in 1955 he left an estate of more than £1.2m. His brother Gervase was also a partner in Beckett & Co. and a director of the Westminster Bank after the merger, but he was more focused on politics. He was a Conservative MP from 1906-29, sitting for Whitby until 1922 and thereafter for Leeds North, and his views also found expression through the Yorkshire Post, of which he was Chairman, and the Saturday Review, of which he was editor. In about 1904 he bought the Kirkdale Manor estate and built a grand new Edwardian house there, which remained his home until his death. He was created a baronet for political services in 1921 and was twice married, having four daughters by his first wife and one son by his second, although he is also thought to have been the father of Sir Rupert Hart-Davis, with whose mother he had an affair after she became estranged from her husband. His only legitimate son, Sir Martyn Beckett (1918-2001), 2nd bt., trained as an architect after the Second World War, and made a very successful career that encompassed both the design of new buildings and the restoration of historic ones. He sold his father's house at Kirkdale in 1947 but retained the estate and in 1959 built Manor Farm, Kirkdale as a replacement centre for the estate. Unexpectedly, this is a Modernist house, which now belongs to his younger son, Jeremy Rupert Beckett (b. 1952). The current baronet works in financial services and lives in London.

Somerby Park, Corringham, Lincolnshire

Somerby was 'an ancient mansion of brick', said to have dated from Elizabethan or Jacobean times, which apparently had quite a complicated architectural history. The original house, which may not have been much more than a farmhouse, seems to have been a three-storey single-pile building with a tall stepped gable at one end and two tall chimneystacks. At some point the right-hand half of this house was given sash windows, and in the late 18th or early 19th century a single-storey great room with a Venetian window set in the curved end wall was added to the side of the house. 

Somerby Park, Corringham: the house in the early 19th century. The hatchment on the front wall suggests the drawing was made soon after the death Sir John Beckett in 1826 or that of his widow in 1833.
Somerby Park, Corringham: the house in the late 19th or early 20th century, showing the rear extension.
Later still the remaining mullioned windows in the original block were replaced by double sashes and the brick facade was given quoins at the angles. An extension to the rear of the main block was perhaps contemporary with this work, although it could have been later again. Nothing is known of the interior. The house was abandoned after it ceased to be occupied in 1915 and is said to have been partially dismantled later, but it was evidently largely intact in 1930, and the footprint of the buildings on the site remains little-changed today.

Descent: Fairfax family...sold 1786 to Sir John Beckett (d. 1826), 1st bt.; to son, Sir John Beckett (1775-1847), 2nd bt.; to brother, Sir Thomas Beckett (1779-1872), 3rd bt.; to daughter, Mary Beckett (d. 1915); to nephew, Sir Hickman Beckett Bacon (1855-1945), 11th/12th bt. of Thonock Hall; to nephew, Sir Edmund Castell Bacon (1903-82), 13th/14th bt.; to son, Sir Nicholas Hickman Ponsonby Bacon (b. 1953), 14th/15th bt.

Kirkstall Grange (formerly New Grange), Headingley, Leeds, Yorkshire (WR)

The estate belonged to the Wade family from 1604 and they are reputed to have built a new house here in 1626. The present house was built to the designs of James Paine for Walter Wade in about 1752, and took the form of a villa with wings, although the right wing, if it ever existed, had been demolished by 1850. It is two years earlier than Isaac Ware's influential villa with wings at Wrotham Park (Herts), but quite a lot later than Colen Campbell's Hotham House, Beverley (Yorks ER) of c.1716-21, which was illustrated in the widely-available Vitruvius Britannicus (vol. 2, pl. 87). The idea may derive ultimately from Palladio's Villa Pisani at Montagnana, which was illustrated in Palladio's I Quattro Libri dell'architettura. 

Kirkstall Grange: the house c.1900, before the construction of college buildings behind the house.
Paine combined the form of a villa with wings with a number of other distinctive architectural ideas. The most striking of these is treating the whole of the central block as an astylar temple, with a pedimental gable stretching across its whole width. This was a design of which Paine was uniquely fond, as at least six examples can be found in his oeuvre, mostly dating from the 1750s, although the earliest is perhaps Youngsbury in Hertfordshire, said to date from 1745. The idea may derive ultimately from Palladio's Palazzo Thiene in Quinto Vicentino (Italy), where what was actually built bears a closer resemblance to Paine's designs than the more elaborate scheme illustrated in the Quattro Libri

Youngsbury is precociously neo-Classical, with three of the windows on the entrance front set in shallow arched recesses. At Kirkstall, a single arched recess encloses the first and second floor central windows and breaks through the cornice into the pediment above. The first floor windows have pediments and splayed surrounds, and the surviving wing echoes this composition on a smaller scale. The idea of an arched recess breaking through the cornice into the pediment above seems to have been first explored by Palladio on the garden front of the Villa Foscari "La Malcontenta", Mira (Italy) but this elevation seems not to have been available in published form. If Paine was one of the architects who had access to Lord Burlington's collection at Chiswick House (which Lord Burlington made available to architects during his lifetime), he could also have derived it from Palladio's design for the Villa Valmarana at Vigardolo, but he was a good enough architect to come up with the idea for himself: there does not need to have been a classical precedent.

The porch was enclosed, and bay windows were added, in about 1890 to the designs of Chorley & Connon. Inside, there is an octagonal top-lit staircase hall in the centre of the building, and the stairs and the first-floor gallery have bow-fronted wrought iron balustrades. The staircase is surrounded by a sequence of inter-connecting rooms with fine plasterwork and chimneypieces, although most of the plasterwork is Rococo-style work of the late 19th century. The entrance hall has fine relief plasterwork panels and medallions, and a Doric frieze and cornice.

Kirkstall Grange: the drawing room in use as a student common room in 1912.
Image: Leeds Beckett University Archives & Special Collections.
The Becketts sold part of the estate to Leeds Corporation as the site for a teacher training college, which was begun in 1911, and now forms the main campus of Leeds Beckett University. Later, the east part of the park was sold off for suburban housing, while the western part became a public park. Here can be found (in Queen's Wood), the Victoria Arch, which consists of four giant Ionic columns supporting a pediment. It was apparently built in 1858 to commemorate Queen Victoria's opening of Leeds Town Hall, and has a frieze of glazed Minton tiles. It has been suggested that it is an alteration of an 18th century eyecatcher, but there seems no trace of it on the Ordnance Survey 6" plan of 1851. A tiny picturesque Tudor lodge of c.1830 was presumably built for Sir John Beckett, 2nd bt., and marks the entrance to the park from the Otley Road.

Descent: sold 1604 to Anthony Wade (d. 1616); to son, Benjamin Wade (1591-1672); to nephew, Anthony Wade (d. 1683); to son, Benjamin Wade (1665-1716); to son, Walter Wade (b. 1696; fl. 1759); to son, Walter Wade (1722-71); to son, Benjamin Wade (1759-92); to son, Thompson Wade (d. 1828) and his sisters, who rented to John Marshall (1765-1845), flax spinner from 1805-18; sold 1832 to Sir John Beckett (1775-1847), 2nd bt.; to brother, William Beckett (1784-1863); to brother, Sir Edmund Beckett (later Beckett-Denison) (1787-1874), 4th bt.; to son, William Beckett-Denison (1826-90); to son, Ernest William Beckett (1856-1917), 2nd Baron Grimthorpe; sold c.1907 to Leeds Corporation.

Batchwood Hall, St. Albans, Hertfordshire

The house was designed for himself by Sir Edmund Beckett-Denison (1816-1905), 5th bt. and later 1st Baron Grimthorpe, and built in 1874-76. Lord Grimthorpe (who once said he was "the only architect with whom I have never quarrelled"!), was an enthusiastic amateur with very deep pockets. He was largely responsible for the much-criticised 'restoration' of St Albans Abbey between 1878 and 1899, where his work was unnecessarily extensive and is said to have cost him £130,000. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that by 1890 'to grimthorpe' was in use as a verb meaning 'to restore (an ancient building) with lavish expenditure rather than skill and fine taste'. 

Batchwood Hall: the garden front as first built for Lord Grimthorpe in 1874-76.
At Batchwood he produced a symmetrical design that mixes classical and Old English forms in a pedestrian way.  The south-facing two-storey garden front was originally of seven bays, with basket-headed windows and a single-storey curved bow in the centre. The house was remodelled in neo-Georgian style in 1912 for John Ramsey Drake, but the result was to make it even more characterless. The basket-headed windows were altered to rectangular sashes with keystones and the tripartite windows in the end bays were replaced by pairs of regular sashes, so that there are now nine bays. 

Batchwood Hall: the entrance front in recent years. Image: Jack Hill. Some rights reserved.
The entrance front is eleven narrow bays wide and now also has sash windows with white painted keystones, a wooden dentil cornice, and a high pitched roof sloping up to a ridge-top row of even taller chimneystacks. To one side is a service wing, not altered in 1912, with a broached octagonal turret housing a clock designed by Lord Grimthorpe. Inside, the principal surviving feature is a central top-lit hall containing a staircase rising in two arms to a gallery with Ionic columns and an iron balustrade.  

Batchwood Hall: the garden front today.
In 1935 the house and grounds were bought by St Albans Corporation and the grounds were laid out as a golf course. A large sports centre was later built to the north of the house, and after this was destroyed by arson, was rebuilt in 2014. The house itself became a night club which seems to have been a victim of the COVID pandemic of 2020-21: a new tenant and perhaps a new use is now sought.

Descent: built for Sir Edmund Beckett-Denison (1816-1905), 5th bt. and 1st Baron Grimthorpe; to nephew, Ernest William Beckett (1856-1917), 2nd Baron Grimthorpe; sold c.1910 to John Ramsey Drake (1853-1942); sold 1935 to St. Albans Borough Council.

Meanwood Park, Leeds, Yorkshire (WR)

The house was built in about 1762 for Thomas Denison (1720-96), and a north wing was added in 1814 for Joseph Lees, who ran a school here in the second decade of the 19th century. The main block was remodelled in about 1834, probably by John Clark (d. 1857) of Leeds, for Christopher Beckett, in a heavy Italianate Classical style. 

Meanwood Park, Leeds: the house in the late 19th century. Image: Leeds Museum & Art Gallery. Some rights reserved.
The ground floor has channelled rustication; the first floor has windows with balconies (linked by two bold mouldings) and ornate hoods carried on scrolled brackets; and the deeply bracketed eaves cornice carries a heavy balustrade. The central bay of the entrance front is stepped forward and has a porch of four fluted Ionic columns. On both ends of the entrance front are full-height curved bows, which continue the decoration of the entrance front. Inside, the house has a grand entrance hall from which leads a top-lit Imperial staircase with a cast iron balustrade and a coffered ceiling.

Meanwood Park, Leeds: the house in 2009. Image: Public Domain.
The house became a home for adults and children with learning difficulties in 1920 and in the 1960s offered beds for some 840 residents in buildings across the site. The home closed in 1997 and part of the house was converted to housing, while the grounds were also developed for housing. No new use has been found for the main part of the house, which remains in a semi-derelict condition.

Descent: Thomas Denison (1720-96); to widow, Elizabeth for life and then to son, Robert Denison, who leased it to Joseph Lees (fl. 1816), schoolmaster; sold 1824 to Christopher Beckett (1777-1847); to brother, Sir Thomas Beckett (1779-1872), 3rd bt. but was occupied by his sisters Mary Beckett (d. 1858) and Elizabeth Beckett (d. 1864); to daughter, Mary Beckett (d. 1915), who leased it to her cousin, William Beckett Denison (1826-90) and later to Joshua Bower and R.W. Bower; to nephew, Sir Hickman Beckett Bacon (1855-1945), 11th/12th bt. of Thonock Hall, who let it in 1919 (and sold the freehold in 1921) to Leeds Corporation as a colony for the mentally handicapped, which closed in 1997.

Easthorpe Hall, Appleton-le-Street, Yorkshire (NR)

There was a house in this fine position, commanding views over the parkland of Castle Howard, from early times, and the park was walled by the 4th Lord Eure in 1617-20, immediately after he inherited the estate from his father. Unfortunately, nothing seems to be known of the house that existed at that time, as Easthorpe was not among the Yorkshire houses sketched by Samuel Buck. The estate was bought by the Hebdens in 1632, and James Hebden, who had moved into the house by 1755 (in his father's lifetime), rebuilt it soon afterwards. The architect is unknown. It was attributed to John Carr for many years, and more recently scholars have suggested Thomas Atkinson, although it would be right at the beginning of his architectural career. 

Easthorpe Hall: the south front of the house as built in the 18th century, drawn by E. Ridsdale Tate for T.P. Cooper, With Dickens in Yorkshire, 1923. Image courtesy of Peter Wilson.
The house as built had a well-proportioned two-storey south front with a central canted bay with three arched windows on its ground floor, and Venetian windows to either side. What makes the design extraordinary is that all the windows on this front had rusticated Gibbs surrounds, as did the windows on the eastern return: an obsessive and perhaps rather amateurish touch. The entrance front, on the west side, had a porch with Tuscan columns and a pediment. Inside, there was a good staircase hall with Ionic columns to the gallery and a fine wrought iron balustrade.

Easthorpe Hall: staircase hall in 1951. Image: Historic England AA72/1042.
After the death of James Hebden in 1786 the estate was sold to the Earls of Carlisle, and during the 19th century it was let to a succession of tenants. This probably saved it from Victorian alterations. But in the 1920s it was sold to the 3rd Lord Grimthorpe, who engaged Walter Brierley to greatly enlarge the house. 

Easthorpe Hall: the new north front created by Walter Brierley in 1926.
He created a new north front with the central three bays stepped forward under a pediment with a cartouche of the Beckett arms, and a new main entrance set in a doorcase with an elaborate swan's neck pediment below it. To the left was an extended service wing, and to the right a library wing. Inside, there was a large entrance hall and a new drawing room lined with fine panelling, said to have been designed by W.H. Romaine-Walker.

Easthorpe Hall: drawing room in 1951. Image: Historic England AA72/1040.
After the house was sold in 1965 it had a short existence as a night club, before being gutted in November 1966 by a fire believed to have been caused by a spark from an ineffectively damped drawing room fire setting light to a hearthrug. Only the service wing remained substantially intact, and this continued to be occupied for a few more years. A temporary roof was put on the library wing and the hall, and the shell was still standing in March 1972, but it was demolished soon afterwards.

Easthorpe Hall: the entrance range and library wing in 1972, shortly before demolition. Image: Historic England BB72/2191.

Easthorpe Hall: the 18th century block after the fire. Image: Historic England BB72/2187.
Descent: William Eure (c.1587-1646), 4th Baron Eure; sold 1632 to James Hebden; to son, John Hebden; to son, James Hebden (fl. 1730); to son, George Hebden (1688-1760); to son, James Hebden (1726-86); sold after his death to Frederick Howard (1748-1825), 5th Earl of Carlisle; to son, George Howard (1773-1848), 6th Earl of Carlisle; to son, George William Frederick Howard (1802-64), 7th Earl of Carlisle; to brother, Rev. William George Howard (1808-89), 8th Earl of Carlisle; to nephew, George James Howard (1843-1911), 9th Earl of Carlisle; to younger son, Hon. Geoffrey William Algernon Howard (1877-1935); sold or leased c.1922 to Lt-Col. Ralph William Ernest Beckett (1891-1963), 3rd Baron Grimthorpe; to son, Christopher John Beckett (1915-2003), 4th Baron Grimthorpe, who sold 1965...

Westow Hall, Yorkshire (ER)

A late 17th century house, probably built for Robert Idle (d. 1716). The handsome two-storey seven-bay ashlar facade has rusticated quoins and a pantile roof with stone coped gables and 20th century dormer windows. 

Westow Hall: the house in 1953, before the addition of the dormer windows. Image: R. Bayes & Co., Hunmanby (Yorks ER) 
The sash windows - perhaps a later replacement for cross-windows, are set in architraves with keystones. In the centre is a slightly projecting bay with the entrance door set in a boldly rusticated Gibbs surround under a broken segmental pediment; the window above is flanked by pilasters. 

Westow Hall: the entrance front today. Image: Yorkshire Escapes.
At the rear of the house are two later, 18th or 19th century wings. Inside there are two good carved 18th century wooden fireplaces and an open-string staircase with column-on-vase balusters. The early 18th century former stable block to the left of the house has been converted into a cottage. The house is now available for holiday rentals.

Descent: Robert Idle (d. 1716); Rt. Hon. John Idle (fl. 1741-55), Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Scotland... sold to Sir Christopher Sykes (1749-1801), 2nd bt.; to son, Sir Mark Sykes (later Masterman-Sykes) (1771-1823), 3rd bt.; to brother, Sir Tatton Sykes (1772-1863), 4th bt.; to son, Sir Tatton Sykes (1826-1913), 5th bt.; to son, Sir Mark Sykes (1879-1919), 6th bt.; to son, Sir Mark Tatton Richard Sykes (latter Tatton-Sykes) (1905-78), 7th bt., who sold 1957 to Brig. Christopher John Beckett (1915-2003), 4th Baron Grimthorpe; to son, Edward John Beckett (b. 1954), 5th Baron Grimthorpe.

Kirkdale Manor, Nawton, Yorkshire (NR)

An Edwardian country house, reputedly on the site of an earlier manor house, which was built in 1904-06 for the Hon. Sir William Gervase Beckett (1866-1937), 1st bt. The house has a long garden front of neo-Georgian character, with a wide centre connected by recessed single-bay links to canted bays at either end. The centre has three groups of three closely-spaced windows on the first floor and a further similar group either side of a central doorcase. The entrance front stands at right-angles to this façade, and the end of the long garden front forms a projecting wing as seen from this point of view. 

Kirkdale Manor: garden front.

Kirkdale Manor: entrance front, 2021. Image: Benjamin Crosse.
The entrance front itself is gabled, and has a projecting centre with a broad porch supported on four Ionic columns. Many of the windows on this side are also in groups of three, but the gables give this elevation a quite different character. The interior of the house was given some genuine Georgian fittings, including a fine fireplace attributed to William Kent (now sold). In 1947 Sir Martyn Beckett sold the house for use as a preparatory school (St. Martin's School), which closed in 2001 when it merged with Gilling Castle School. The house was then converted into apartments.

Descent: built for Hon. Sir William Gervase Beckett (1866-1937), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Martyn Beckett (1918-2001), 2nd bt., who sold 1947.

Kirkdale Manor Farm, Yorkshire (NR)

A new house built in 1959 on the site of an earlier farmstead by Sir Martyn Beckett (1918-2001) as a replacement centre for the estate after the sale of Kirkdale Manor. Since Sir Martyn was to become a prominent architect, it is hardly surprising that he chose to design it himself, but it is a little unexpected to find the house an uncompromising statement of the Modernist position in the years after the Festival of Britain. 

Manor Farm, Kirkdale: the entrance front in 1960. Image: Country Life.

Manor Farm, Kirkdale: the garden front in 1960. Image: Country Life.
It is a generously planned L-shaped building, partly of stone and partly of white render, and contained six bedrooms, three bathrooms and a staff flat as well as the reception rooms. Despite its considerable size, however, the house is ruthlessly unembellished and pedestrian in its details, and the misalignment of form and function (country houses being a building type in which conspicuous display of wealth and/or taste is essential) is disturbing. Moreover, the small and asymmetrically-placed horizontal windows, some skied up under the roofline, and the way the roof of the lower main range crashes into the wall of the taller cross-range are visually discordant, and although the glazed link between the two ranges is rather more successful in its own terms, the effect of the whole suggests a small contemporary primary school rather than a setting for gracious living.

Descent: built for Sir Martyn Beckett (1918-2001), 2nd bt.; to younger son, Jeremy Rupert Beckett (b. 1952).

Principal sources

Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 2003, pp. 316-17, 1685-86; R.V. Taylor, Biographia Leodiensis, 1865, passim; P. Ferriday, Lord Grimthorpe, 1816-1905, 1957; M. Girouard, 'A design that alarms the neighbours', Country Life, 19 May 1960, pp. 1139-40; Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Yorkshire - the North Riding, 1966, p. 217; J.M. Robinson, The latest country houses, 1984, pp. 215-16; E. Waterson & P. Meadows, Lost houses of York and the North Riding, 1990, p. 13; G. Meadows, Landscape gardens in West Yorkshire, 1680-1880, 1990, p. 72; Sir N. Pevsner & D. Neave, The buildings of England: York and the East Riding, 2nd edn, 1995, p. 747; P. Leach & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the north, 2009, pp. 491-92, 515; M. Holroyd, The book of secrets: illegitimate daughters, absent fathers, 2012J. Bettley, Sir N. Pevsner & B. Cherry, The buildings of England: Hertfordshire, 3rd edn, 2019, pp. 458-59, 506-07; 
Beckett family of Somerby Park, baronets: deeds, estate and family papers, 1630-19th cent. [Lincolnshire Archives, BACON]
Beckett family, Barons Grimthorpe: deeds, settlements and case papers, 1797-1859 [Doncaster Archives, DX/BAX 61844, 64363]
Some more recent records are likely to remain in the custody of the family.

Coat of arms

Gules, a fess between three boar's heads couped erminois.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone supply an engraving or drawing of Kirkstall Grange (otherwise New Grange, Headingley) before the alterations of c.1890, or any view showing it as first built, with the right-hand wing in place?
  • If anyone can offer further information or corrections to any part of this article 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 25 August 2022. I am most grateful to Charles Hind for discussing the design sources for Kirkstall Grange with me.

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