Monday, 10 December 2012

Chapter 4. The Nobility

While the lands of the village of Hutton had belonged for generations to a number of freeholders and there was no major landowner to impose his authority on the villagers, the nearby hamlets of Rudby and Skutterskelfe were the property of the owners of the great house.

In the first half of the 18th century this had been Rudby Hall, standing opposite the church beside the river, but after the manor of Rudby was inherited by Isabella Ingram, her husband General George Cary purchased the neighbouring manor of Skutterskelfe and there he and Isabella made their home.  Rudby Hall appears to have been dismantled or allowed to fall into decay [1].

By 1830 the estates had belonged for some thirty years to their daughter, Elizabeth, Lady Amherst.  She was the widow of Jeffery 1st Lord Amherst, commander-in-chief of the army and much favoured by George III.

Her town house was in Hill Street in Mayfair, but the estates in Cleveland were very dear to her and she took a close interest in their affairs.  Her Will [2] shows her desire to keep her Skutterskelfe mansion house, Leven Grove, with its land and pleasure grounds in good condition, and
particularly that care may be taken to keep up and preserve the Banks of the River Leaven.
She left to her gardener, Arthur Douglas, not only six months' wages in addition to those still owing to him at her death, but also an annuity of £40 a year.   He worked for her for over fifty years [3] and did not long survive her, dying at the age of 84 in December 1831.  The property he had purchased in the village – sufficient to qualify him for a vote [4] – passed to the family of his niece Mary Kaye [5].

The esteem in which she held her gardener may be seen in the fact that £40 was the stipend paid from the estate to the vicar for Rudby; Mrs Elizabeth Brigham, wife of Lady Amherst's steward, was left the sum of £10 and an annuity of £15, besides the £20 a year left by General Cary to her husband Robert.  The gardens at Leven Grove are said to have been laid out by Lancelot "Capability" Brown; he was certainly responsible for the grounds at Temple Newsam, which was also owned by Isabella Ingram's family.

Lady Amherst had clear views on the relative positions of tenant and proprietor.  When a tenant farmer died, his farm should not be added to another's
so as to make together only one farm … it being my belief that it is more for the advantage of proprietors and more consistent with the character of tenants that the farms should be reduced in point of size than that the same should be enlarged or consolidated.
Similarly, she took a paternalistic interest in the welfare of her smaller tenants –
it is my earnest request that the lands which are now attached to my cottages at Rudby should be continued to be let and held therewith for ever hereafter.
This varied from the cottage with twenty-eight perches of land rented by Fanny Miller at £2-1s a year, to the cottage with over nine acres of closes rented by the labourer Benjamin Sidgwick for £13-14s [6]; land on which to grow food and pasture animals made a considerable difference to the life of the rural poor.

Lady Amherst was childless, and she intended her Cleveland estates to remain in her father's family, passing to her young relative, Lucius Bentinck Cary the 10th Viscount Falkland.  He had inherited his title at the age of six on the death of his father, a naval captain and friend of the poet Lord Byron.

Captain Lord Falkland was forty years old with a wife and four children when he died at the house of Arthur Powell, who had fatally wounded him in a duel at Chalk Farm three days earlier.  The Morning Chronicle had commented that both parties were tipsy at the time of the quarrel; Byron wrote movingly of his friend's last days and declared,
He was a gallant and successful officer; his faults were the faults of a sailor, and as such Britons will forgive them. [7]
Lady Falkland was for a time besotted with Lord Byron, her husband's good friend and godfather to her youngest son [8]; she died thirteen years later.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Lady Amherst – like others of the nobility – found herself in straitened circumstances financially.  She was obliged to sell or mortgage some of her property, and had to apply to the bankers Messrs Drummond & Co of Charing Cross in order to purchase a commission in the 7th Foot for the young Lord Falkland, taking out loans amounting to £1,500 [9].

In 1818 she had made a settlement on her niece, Mrs Elizabeth Frances Hale, and had intended to increase it but was unable to do so,
in consequence of the diminution of my personal property and the provision which is unavoidably required to be made for my own relations Lucius Lord Viscount Falkland and his two brothers.
She had earlier invested £30,000 in the 3% Consols with trustees on behalf of Lord Falkland's younger brothers and sister, but had decided to buy the Kirklevington estate bordering her own lands in Middleton, and so had revoked the settlement.

By her Will, she arranged instead for settlements of £10,000 in the 3% Consols as "due provision" for each of the younger brothers, who had both entered the Navy; their sister Emma, of whom Lady Amherst was very fond, had died in 1827.

Lord Falkland would inherit, subject to entails, the manors of Rudby and Skutterskelfe and land in Middleton and Kirklevington.  Lady Amherst's trustees were given clear instructions to ensure that the loan to Drummonds was repaid, and that the young Cary brothers would have no opportunity to sell or mortgage the Cleveland estates in a manner contrary to the Will – if they did so, their share in it would cease.

She left legacies to her friends and to the family servants – including an annuity of £50 a year to Mrs Hannah Parker, who had been the Cary children's nurse – made a charitable bequest to the poor of Rudby, and instructed that her jewels, diamonds, furniture, pictures in oil, linen, china and wedgwood ware were to pass with her house, Leven Grove.

She died at the advanced age of niney-two on 22 May 1830.   She had requested in her Will that she be buried at Rudby, but was in fact interred in Kent with her husband, whose title and country seat of Montreal Park, near Sevenoaks, had passed to his nephew, made 1st Earl Amherst for his services in India.

For thirty years the manors of Rudby and Skutterskelfe had been subject to the close attention of an elderly lady; now they were the property of a young man of twenty-six.  Hitherto an improverished Scottish nobleman, Lord Falkland now had a country seat and a bright future.

Lady Amherst's death had been followed within a month by the death of the King, George IV.  His successor was his brother, previously Duke of Clarence, now King William IV, and at last successfully married to an unexceptional German princess.

Dora Jordan, the much-loved actress with whom he had lived for so long and who had borne him the ten Fitzclarence children, had been dead for some years.  The difficult position of their four surviving sons, the object of much unpleasantness from the press and nobility alike, would soon provoke problems for their royal father, but four of the five daughters had already made suitable marriages.

There only remained the youngest, Amelia, who had hardly known her mother, and she was to marry the young Lord Falkland.  She was four years younger than he, and they shared the same birthday.  They were married at the Brighton Pavilion on 27 Dec 1830, the King giving the bride away.

Lord Falkland now had a wife and home of his own, and a position at Court as Lord of the Bedchamber to the King.

A month later Lord Falkland came north to mortgage his new estates and make plans for the future.  On 2, 3 and 4 February 1831 he executed deeds mortgaging his new estate which were witnessed by the Yarm solicitors, William Garbutt and William Fawcett.  This may have been his first meeting with one of Lady Amherst's trustees, Marshall Fowler.  Two years earlier Fowler had inherited the recently-built Preston Hall, near Eaglescliffe, from his great-uncle, and that portent of the new age, the Stockton & Darlington Railway, ran along an embankment to the rear of his house.


[1]   Eddowes, in his Church & Parish of Rudby-in-Cleveland 1924 recorded that "the late Lord Falkland informed the writer that he at one time possessed an old parchment showing a drawing of the 'Rectory and Hall', which stood in the fields on the opposite side of the road to the Church, and our oldest inhabitant, Mr Mease, (who is now in his ninety-sixth year) well remembers using large dressed stones found in these fields for the purpose of erecting outbuildings and for the damming of the stream"

[2]  Will dated 13 March 1827, proved on 23 July 1830

[3] see Memorial Inscriptions, Rudby-in-Cleveland

[4] Yorkshire Poll Book 1807

[5] Will of Arthur Douglas 3 Mar 1826, North Riding Deeds Registry GA84

[6] Deeds 2 & 3 Feb 1831, North Riding Deeds Registry FS461

[7] note to English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, quoted in the entry in The Complete Peerage

[8] with thanks to Lord Falkland for this information

[9] recited in her Will

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