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Original document


History and Genealogy of families resident at Michaelchurch Court

Place name:

Michaelchurch Escley


1817 - 1990


Guest Contribution Introductory Note:

The research paper below has been written by James Gunn based on his investigations of his own family’s history. It is published here with the author’s kind permission.

Ewyas Lacy Study Group









This story of the Michaelchurch Court estate only aims to put, in narrative form, the facts about the purchase and ownership of the estate as written in family documents which surfaced when it was sold.


The documents were in 3 places-a large tin trunk in the playhouse contained Miss Rawson's deeds and conveyance records, but unfortunately some of the deeds were damaged by water, as was the trunk; a small suitcase held a lot of Trafford family records and correspondence which appear to have been sorted by Clare Margaret Hunter for her son when she went to Portugal; and a cardboard box containing Hunter deeds for premises in Fig Tree lane, Sheffield and Stoke Hall, together with other family documents.

The contents of the tin trunk were handed to the sale agents and the Hunter deeds to the Record offices of Sheffield and Derbyshire. Other records and sources have been consulted, particularly about the Rawsons, Bradford and Bolton.


There is here, of course, the material for a splendid saga of Britain in the 19th and 20th Centuries since it brings together 'old' family names like Trafford and Butler, 'new' money made by go ahead Industrialists in the Chemical, Iron and Coal, Steel and Mining industries and in Banking, all in the context of Land ownership which lost its economic value between 1870 and 1945.


James Gunn

Epperstone, September 1991.





On the 10th of March, 1817, at the parish church of Dean, near Bolton in Lancashire, Anne Rawson was given in marriage to Major Thomas Samuel Nicolls of the 31st Regiment of Foot. It was this union which eventually led to the purchase at auction on 3rd.July 1863, of the Michaelchurch Court Estate by Anne's sister, Elizabeth.




Anne Rawson was the third daughter of Benjamin Rawson of Darley Hall, Lancashire, Bradford, Yorks and Nidd Hall near Harrogate, whose wealth made possible this, and other purchases of landed estates. It came partly by inheritance, and partly as a result of his own efforts.


There are several Rawson families in south Yorkshire who trace their origin to the Ferrybridge area where they were recorded in Domesday. Both their name and the location suggest that around 850 AD a Danish Viking, the son of Ralph, found his way up the Humber, and while he stayed at Ferrybridge, some of his companions went on up the Ouse to York. Later on his descendants would move west up the river Aire to Bradford, and other Rawsons would settle in Sheffield, Halifax and the surrounding areas.

They were recorded as having Arms in a Visitation in 1585 - a Castle with 4 towers - and their crest was a raven with a gold ring in its beak. Benjamin's first known ancestor was William of Bradford, whose will was proved in 1550.


His great grandfather, another William, of Bowling near Bradford, married twice. The children of his first wife remained in Bradford, but the line failed when their grandson, Jeremiah, died in 1767. Beside being Lord of the Manor of Bowling, Jeremiah was an attorney and in 1740 was one of the subscribers to the Selby to Halifax turnpike. His wife was a cousin of Lawrence Sterne, the author of 'A Sentimental Journey' and 'Tristram Shandy', and her grandfather was Archbishop of York from 1664 to 1683. Jeremiah was, then, a person of standing and influence, and he left his considerable property to his first cousin, Benjamin Rawson, senior, the father of 'our' Benjamin.


Benjamin senior was William's grandson by his second wife, Dorcas Brooke, whose son Brooke moved to Manchester. Benjamin senior became an apothecary, and was described in a Manchester directory in 1773 as a Vitriol manufacturer. By 1788 he was described as 'gentleman, of Vitriol building, Quay Street, Manchester.'



Oil of Vitriol was the alchemist's name for what later chemists called Sulphuric Acid. Benjamin senior was making this chemical by methods evolved through trial and error just at the time that modern chemistry was emerging. It was only in 1787 that chemical nomenclature was devised, so that specific names were given to particular substances with defined formulae, and Lavoisier had only discovered Oxygen and the process of combustion as recently as 1770. Previously it was thought to happen by the release of an unidentified substance which was called 'phlogiston'.


Sulphuric Acid had been known for many years, back to Roman times, and it was used in the 17th Century as a cure for venereal disease. In the 18th Century its main use was as a bleaching agent for textiles.


Until the middle of that Century bleaching took several weeks; the material had to be soaked, boiled in alkali, tentered on hooks to absorb sunshine and dew, and then soaked several times in an acid of fermented buttermilk. With Sulphuric acid the process took one day, and the cost was drastically reduced. It should be remembered that Britain's competitive lead in the Industrial Revolution owed as much to the Chemical industry as to iron, coal and textiles.


The acid was made by burning brimstone, imported from Sicily, in a bell shaped earthenware jar. The gas thus produced was condensed and absorbed in water. In 1749 glass was substituted for the fragile earthenware, but the process was still very dangerous. ‘When the acid is sufficiently concentrated, the fire is taken out and the retorts allowed to remain in the sand until cool enough to be moved without cracking. A man then lifts the retorts one by one, each retort containing 50 to 60 pounds of hot, concentrated sulphuric acid, and this he pours into carboys that have been previously warmed to receive it. This is a frightful and dangerous task.’


In 1745 John Roebuck invented the 'Lead Chamber process’, it having been discovered that Lead was not dissolved by sulphuric acid. This was much more robust than glass, and the acid could be produced in much greater volumes, but there was still the problem of transporting the glass carboys over the inadequate and bumpy roads.


In 'the History of the British Chemical Industry' it is stated that Benjamin Rawson started to manufacture Sulphuric acid in Bradford in 1750. This may be correct and it would make him one of the first people to do so in England. It has been suggested by a Bradford historian, however, that production would not have started until 1774 when the Bradford canal was built. He may be right, particularly since Jeremiah did not die until 1767, but  he could  have started in a  small way and increased his output when the canal was opened.

At any rate in 1785, Benjamin junior (father of Anne, and who will simply be called Benjamin from now on) bought some land on the site of the Northbrook vitriol works, and this may have been an addition to land inherited from Jeremiah.


In the same year Benjamin married Elizabeth, only surviving daughter of Thomas Plumbe who manufactured fustian (a hard wearing cloth, similar to corduroy) in Bolton, Lancashire, and oil of vitriol at Prestolee, near Farnsworth. It would seem that Benjamin senior must have died soon after this, so that Benjamin inherited both his father's works in Manchester and Jeremiah's properties in Bradford. However he remained in Bolton, joining his father in law in partnership and becoming a prominent and leading citizen in those parts.




Although Benjamin continued to live in Lancashire, his affairs in Bradford were both extensive and prosperous, and in 1795 he bought the Lordship of the Manor of Bradford for £2,100. This was a brilliant investment, giving him control over the markets of a town whose population was to grow from 4,500 in 1780 to 52,000 in 1850.


The prosperity of Bradford came from the fact that it stood on iron stone and coal measures, and that there was limestone at Shipley where Bradforddale joined Airedale. But until the turnpike roads were built in the 1750's Bradford was cut off by its surrounding hills and could not transport its products to their markets. It was the opening of the Bradford to Skipton spur of the Leeds and Liverpool canal in 1774 which enabled Bradford to export its coal and iron, and import the burned lime from Shipley which was essential for agriculture and building. The impetus this gave to their wool industry soon made it the major wool market in England.


The vitriol factory prospered in this economic climate, but in 1802 Benjamin leased it to James Broadbent whose son was able to buy it outright in 1838. As Lord of the Manor, Benjamin was pressed by local businessmen to improve the market facilities which had become totally inadequate. So in 1798 he purchased the site of a projected private market (which his predecessor had managed to have suppressed), and erected a market hall of some splendour. The market stalls gave way to shops, rents increased, and in 1824 and 1825 he opened new market buildings to keep up with demand.


He remained Lord of the Manor until his death, and it was not until 1866 that, by the Rawson Estates Act, his daughter Elizabeth sold to the Corporation a 999 year lease of the markets for £5,000 per annum. The right to control markets was indeed a valuable one, and it is hardly surprising that it was jealously guarded, even though the Manorial system was by then an anachronism which held back the development of the city. The Rawson Markets remain to this day, and are a memorial to Benjamin's entrepreneurial skill.




Benjamin continued to live with his wife and a growing number of children in Bolton, and in 1806 he purchased an estate of 300 acres, partly in Farnsworth and partly in Kearsley, quite close to the Vitriol works he had opened in 1792 at Prestolee. On this estate he built Darley Hall, an elegant Regency building with stone porticos on the east and west sides, and a colonnade on the north.


He remained there until about 1838, when the park was cut in half by the railway. He had sold the Vitriol works some time after 1834, and he then retired to Nidd Hall, a large mansion with an extensive estate a few miles north of Harrogate. Darley Hall was let until about 1873, and although it was used for some social occasions, it was allowed to become derelict. It was sold to the Farnsworth Council, and demolished in 1914.


The park has now been swallowed up by urban development, the only signs of its past history being Rawson Street, the church that Benjamin helped to build, and the Rawson Arms. A motorway runs at the end of the estate.




Benjamin and Elizabeth had 5 sons and 4 daughters. Two of the sons, Charles and William, died young, the elder at Antigua in the Navy and the younger in 1836 in the Army. Two of the other sons did not marry; Jeremiah died in 1858 aged 67, and Benjamin, who was a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire, in 1837 aged 37. I know almost nothing about them, though William is mentioned in the history of Bradford in connection with the Market. Benjamin's sons must have given some help in running the family's affairs. The only son to marry was Thomas. His wife was Frances Penelope, 3rd daughter of Colonel Plumbe-Tempest of Tong near Bradford. They had one daughter, also Frances Penelope, and she married Henry Edmund Butler who became 13th Viscount Mountgarret. It seems that Thomas was 'mad’ and the Eagle Hall estate at Pateley Bridge was specially bought for him.


The daughters seem to have been made of sterner stuff. Two of them married, both in 1817 and both to officers of the 31st Regiment. No doubt that Unit was stationed in those parts. The elder of the two was Sarah and she married Colonel George Guy Carleton L'Estrange. They had no children and he died in 1848 as a Major General. Sarah died in 1861.


The younger of the two, Anne, married Captain Thomas Samuel Nicolls and produced six of Benjamin's seven grandchildren. They changed their name in 1837 to Trafford and the Michaelchurch Estate was bought for their eldest son.


The other two daughters were Mary, the oldest child, and Elizabeth, the youngest daughter. It was to them that Benjamin left his great wealth when he died in 1844 and it was Elizabeth who, following Mary's death in 1863, bought Michaelchurch for her nephew Charles Guy Trafford. She also provided for her other nephews and nieces.


Eliza was not only very rich but also very kind and a great character. She once attacked two burglars with her umbrella and drove them out of the house, and on another occasion was discovered in the church at Canon Frome polishing the handles of a coffin ready for the funeral the next day. Eliza outlived all but one of her nephews and nieces and died in 1890, aged 95, leaving an estate of £567,165.It included 7604 acres in Yorkshire, 1307 in Herefordshire and 160 in Lancashire, a total of 9071 acres worth £12,045 a year. At 1990 prices this would have been the equivalent of about £20 million, with an annual income of £500,000.


The church at Nidd was rebuilt by Elizabeth, and contains many family memorials. Nidd Hall passed, after Eliza's death, to the Mountgarrets who lived there until 1970 when it was sold to meet death duties. The family moved to a nearby house and continue to farm the land. The Hall is now an hotel.


Thomas Samuel Nicolls, who was a 3rd son, therefore made an advantageous marriage, and one for which his descendants had every reason to be grateful.




Thomas Samuel Nicolls' home was Swythamley Hall, near Congleton in Staffordshire. This estate had been granted in 1540 to William Trafford, second son of Sir Edmund Trafford, who could trace his ancestry in unbroken male line back to the Conquest. William's line also remained unbroken until another William, 6 generations later, died in 1762 leaving an only daughter, Sarah. She had married, in about 1730, William Nicolls of Stafford, only son of Thomas Nicolls and Elizabeth, only daughter of Henry Walker of Stafford and of Coton Hall, Milwich, Co. Stafford. William Nicolls died in 1755 and Sarah in 1785, and Swythamley passed to their 6th (and only surviving?) son Edward by the Will of his grandfather, William Trafford.


Edward Nicolls (1742-1805) had 3 sons, the eldest of whom was also named Edward and who took the name of Trafford by Royal License in 1823, presumably to keep the name alive. However he died in 1839, leaving an only daughter by his first wife and 3 daughters by his second. The second son, William, died unmarried in 1837, so the 3rd son Thomas Samuel, took the name of Trafford by Royal License in 1837. Incidentally, it was in this year that the senior Trafford family added 'de' before Trafford. Ancient lineage was a matter of much concern in those days because those who were making 'new’ money wished to establish themselves among the ‘old’ families into which they were marrying. For the same reasons ordinary place names became 'antiqued', and Nidd became Nydd.


Swythamley, however, did not pass to Thomas Samuel, and he moved to Plas Panthowell, near Tenby in Carmarthenshire when he went on half-pay in 1824, transferring to the 24th Regiment. He was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel in 1830, Colonel in 1846 and Major-General in 1854. Having borne him 4 sons and 3 daughters, Anne died in 1843 and Thomas Samuel remarried.




His second wife was Maria, daughter of John Le Marchant of Guernsey; they married in 1844 and she bore him 4 more sons and 4 more daughters. Thomas Samuel Trafford died in 1857 and was buried in Carmarthenshire. His widow continued to live at Plas Panthowell until she died there 51 years later in 1908.The only son to have issue was William Thyrkel Trafford who went out to Cape Colony.


He arrived there in the early 1870's in time for the discovery of gold in the Transvaal. Moving on via Kimberley and the diamond mines he ended up in Natal, farming and breeding horses at Kilmore. In 1878 he married Anne Elizabeth Smerdon whose father had arrived in South Africa in 1839 as Captain of his own ship.


William Thyrkel had 4 sons, of whom only one had issue, and 4 daughters who all married and had issue, either in South Africa or the U.K. The eldest son, Edward Le Marchant, was born in 1884 and married in 1914 Sya Gillett of Potchefstroom in the Transvaal. They had 2 sons, the younger of whom was killed in action at El Alamein in 1942.


The elder son, Edward Le Marchant II, was born in 1917 and, after being educated in England at Kelly College and Sidney Sussex, Cambridge went into the Oil business in Shell. He went to Canada in 1950 having married a Canadian wife, Alice Patricia Tyler, in 1944 when the oil boom was starting in Alberta. He still (1991) lives in Alberta.


Edward Le Marchant II had 6 sons and one daughter. The eldest son, Edward Le Marchant III (who lives in England) has married and produced Edward Le Marchant IV as well as 2 other children, and the youngest son is another Thomas Samuel. The Trafford male line may have failed among the children of Anne Rawson, but it is very much alive among Maria Le Marchant’s Traffords.




Anne and Thomas Nicoll's eldest surviving son was born in 1821 at Darley Hall, and christened Charles Guy. He was followed in 1824 by Benjamin William Rawson and in 1830 by Henry Trafford, who was born at Tenby. There were also daughters, Elizabeth-who probably was married in 1874[?] and died in childbirth; Frances Sarah, and Clara Mary. They are all mentioned in Benjamin's Will. The family lived in Plas Panthowell from 1824, and when Anne died in 1843 Charles Guy was 22 and Henry only 13. Presumably Maria, Thomas’s second wife, brought up her step children as well as her own 8.


Their grandfather had moved from the family home at Darley around 1840, but no doubt they were made very welcome by their aunts at Nidd. Meanwhile the two elder brothers joined the Army, in both cases the 65th, which was to become the Yorks and Lancs Regiment. The 40 years of peace after 1815, when the power of Britain was at its height, must have been a wonderful time to be a rich and handsome young officer. The designing of splendid uniforms was a favourite pass-time, not least for Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert.


The Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny changed that, and Charles Guy served in Gibraltar during the Crimean War, accompanied by his wife. Among his skills was a talent for water colour painting, and some of his work is owned by Betty Sheppard. his great grand-daughter.


His two brothers were both married; Benjamin William Rawson to Marina Rosalie Wyatt, the daughter of his Colonel, and Henry in Canada to Anne Hoare. Benjamin died childless in 1891, and Henry preceded him in 1886 leaving one son, also Henry. This Henry succeeded to the Yafforth estate and took the name Trafford-Rawson. His only son was killed in action in 1916 and his daughter assumed the name De Lavis Trafford.

In 1845 Charles Guy married Caroline Anne Hopton, the eleventh of the thirteen children of the Reverend John Hopton of Canon Frome in Herefordshire.




The Hoptons had lived at Canon Frome for several generations, the succession often being through the female line. Indeed, Caroline Anne's father was born John Parsons, and was fortunate to come into Canon Frome in 1825 much earlier than he might have expected because his father elected to settle on the Parsons estate at Kelmerton.

Her father, Revd. John Hopton, was 'an open handed, hearty churchman and a Tory of the old school', and there were several churchmen and women in the family. The Canon Frome estate was one of the largest in the county and he was a typical ‘squarson'.


Caroline Anne's grandfather, William (Parsons) Hopton, married twice, and his eldest grandson by the second marriage, Edward, married his cousin, Clare Ellen Trafford. A soldier who served in the Crimea, Indian Mutiny, and the Kaffir and Zulu Wars, Edward became a General and was knighted in 1900.He,and his son Edward after him, were Trustees of the Michaelchurch Estate, and Eliza Rawson bought them a house (at Cagebrook in the parish of Eaton Bishop?)


One of Caroline Anne's sisters, Lydia, had a son who married May Tempest of Tong, near Bradford, and so was related to the Mountgarrets. The Hoptons were indeed numerous, and their family connections correspondingly wide.




Charles Guy and Caroline Anne had four sons and two daughters, one of whom was the Clare Ellen who married Sir Edward Hopton. The other daughter, Anna Caroline, married Revd F.R.Green, vicar of Turnastone near Vowchurch.


Their eldest son, Edward Guy, was a man of too much charm and too little financial sense. He managed to be engaged to three ladies at the same time and ran through two fortunes, his own and his wife’s. For this reason, when his father died in 1879 the Michaelchurch Estate was passed to the second son, Henry Randolph.


Edward Guy had one son, Lionel Guy, who must have been a more sober character as he was appointed a trustee of the Michaelchurch estate during Randolph's minority. Certainly he handed it on in excellent order, and withstood the demand for extra income from Randolph's mother, whose over-generous instincts he understood.


Sadly his two sons died young, and he was succeeded by his daughter, Rosamond, who married David Roberts. More happily, her son Roland Guy inherited the Hill Court estate when his cousin John Lionel Trafford died in 1978, and the family took the name Trafford-Roberts.


The third son, Lionel James, was a soldier, and in his will he is described as 'of Hill Court, Farnsworth and Kearsley’. Presumably he inherited the balance of Benjamin Rawson's Lancashire estates and bought Hill Court with the proceeds. It is a magnificent William and Mary mansion near Ross, but he did not live to enjoy it for long as he died in 1900, when it passed to his younger brother Guy Rawson Trafford.


Guy Rawson married his neighbour's daughter and heiress, Dorothy Moffat of Goodrich Court, and had four children. The eldest son died young, but the second son, John Lionel lived there until he died in 1978.He was a man of excellent taste but not the marrying sort and he left the estate to his cousin. Guy Rawson had two daughters, Cicely and Anne, both of whom are musicians. They live together in what used to be the stables of Goodrich Court, the main building having been demolished after Dorothy Moffat married and there was no need for two mansions next door to each other.




Although Benjamin Rawson died at the age of 86 on March 31st. 1844, most of the provisions of his Will remained in suspense until the Life interest of his daughter, Elizabeth, died with her 46 years later. When he died only two of his children had produced grandchildren; his son Thomas had one daughter who was married two months before his death to Henry Edmund Butler, the future 13th Viscount Mountgarret; and Ann Trafford had 3 sons and 3 daughters.


Presumably he had made provision during his lifetime for his unmarried sons and married daughters, so that his concern was how to divide his great wealth among his grandchildren and to preserve his family name. He therefore left everything in Trust for the benefit of his Butler (Mountgarret) and Trafford descendants, and as Trustees he chose his two unmarried daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, giving them a life interest in all his properties and the power of Appointment.


After the death of the survivor of the two daughters, the Lancashire properties were left to Anne Trafford1s eldest son, Charles Guy, and other estates in Yorkshire to her 2 other sons, Benjamin William Rawson and Henry Trafford. Nidd Hall and the main Yorkshire estates were left to Mrs Butler, his newly married grand-daughter. All these legacies were dependent on the beneficiary taking the name and arms of Rawson.


In the event Mary, the older sister, died on 25th April 1863 and Elizabeth on 29 November 1890, outliving all but one of her nephews, who therefore never came into their inheritances. Benjamin Trafford did live to inherit Yafforth but died without issue in the following year; and Henry died at Nidd in 1886. His son Henry assumed the name Trafford-Rawson in 1892 on inheriting Yafforth, but he died in 1912 and his only son was killed in 1916; his only daughter assumed the name de-Lavis-Trafford in 1919.


The Mountgarrets took both the name and arms, but gave up the name by Royal Licence. Their arms quarter Butler and Rawson. The Lancashire estates probably paid for homes for the Trafford children, but the Rawson name died out.




The Michaelchurch Estate was bought for Charles Guy in 1863, immediately after Elizabeth Rawson became the sole executrix. By this time Charles Guy was 42 and must have needed a home for his 6 children. He was probably retired from the Army and ready to settle down as a Country Squire.


The Darley Park estate had been cut in half by the railway and was being built over so that it was no longer a suitable home for a country gentleman. Benjamin Rawson had bought 300 acres but Elizabeth left only 160, so perhaps she sold some land to pay for Michaelchurch. Possibly the rest of the Lancashire estates were earmarked then for his younger children, and paid for Hill Court, Holmer and Cagebrook.


It is not clear why Michaelchurch was chosen, but possibly the fact that it was near Canon Frome and accessible to Tenby may have influenced the decision. Charles Guy moved in to Michaelchurch Court in about 1868, but he did not long enjoy it as he died in 1879. Because of the extravagant ways of his eldest son, the Estate passed to his second son, Henry Randolph.


The estate was bought for £34,050 and consisted of an Elizabethan mansion and 1213 acres. Over the next few years Elizabeth Rawson bought a further 430 acres and the Advowsons of Michaelchurch and Newton for £9,280 - a total of 1643 acres and £44,331; the purchase included the Lordship of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy, and possibly also of Crasswall. Neither Lordship proved as profitable as that of Bradford!


The Court stands on the western slope of the valley down which the Escley brook runs and is some 800 feet above sea level. The Welsh border is 5 miles to the west and the Black Mountain dominates the scene. It is spectacularly beautiful and stimulating, but it can be wet and windy. The valley consists of farmland which is nearly all pasture and is best suited to sheep and cattle. The soil is clay and the climate is moist. The agent who acted for her over the purchase was not particularly enthusiastic about the property, describing it as " hard work and hard living”, and " uninhabitable for a third of the year”. He strongly advised her to " see the place before buying it" .


It never appears to have been very profitable; from a half-year's rent roll of £700 in 1909 there was virtually no profit after repairs of £197, Tithes and Taxes of £102, Wages of £184, Sundries of £89 and the Land Agent's fee of £106. The position was better in 1917,but the estate was never profitable enough to allow a manager to be employed. This meant that a member of the family had to live on the spot to run the estate with the help of a land-agent.


Elizabeth Rawson owned Michaelchurch until she died in 1890 but never lived there. Charles Guy was the life tenant, but when he died in 1879, without coming into his inheritance, she settled £12,000 on his widow to compensate her.




In 1880 she settled two farms, Coed Poth and Griglands, on Henry Randolph, and his commission as a D.L. is dated 1885, though an illuminated address from his tenants welcomed him back to 'this Country' in 1890. He had been tea planting in Ceylon.


When Elizabeth Rawson died in 1890 the estate became the property of her trustees. Henry Randolph continued as Life Tenant and appears to have taken an active part in looking after it. He restored the church, installed a reservoir and added to the buildings. He was a J.P., a Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff in 1896. He was able to live the life of a country squire because Elizabeth Rawson, recognising the modest profitability of the estate, also left a Trust worth £60,000 to go with it. This would have been worth about £2½ million at 1990 prices, and produced an income of some £2,000, or £80,000 in today's currency.


In 1899 Henry Randolph married Bettina Maud, 3rd child (and second daughter) of William Bailey Partridge of Bacton, some 5 miles from Michaelchurch.




The Partridges came from Suffolk, where they had been yeomen farmers since the 16th Century. In about 1797 James Partridge of Holton and Stratford, some six miles north of Colchester, married the sister of Sir Joseph Bailey, one of the main Ironmasters of South Wales, whose family also came from East Anglia and whose grandson became the first Lord Glanusk.


James' only son William quitted Suffolk early in life to join his mother's brothers, Joseph and Crawshay Bailey, at their ironworks in Monmouthshire. In 1828 he married (against his uncles' wishes) at Merthyr Tydvil, Chariotte Bevan and they settled at Beaufort House at the head of Ebbw Vale. He died in 1862 having been for 30 years the manager of the Beaufort iron works. The ironworks ceased operations in 1872-3.


Their 4th son, William Bailey, born in 1840 owned a coal mine in Pontypool and in 1871 he met and married the only daughter of William Henry Hamp of Bacton. At that time, William Henry Hamp had recently lost the greater part of the large estate he thought he had inherited from his brother, John Hampden Hamp, who died in 1863; two months after John's death his widow appeared with a 2 year old infant named Horatio, claiming that he was her husband's son. The outcome of the litigation, Hamp v Hamp, was that Horatio's legitimacy remained uncertain and that the estate was divided 3 ways between William Henry, Horatio and another John Hamp, a cousin who would inherit the estate in the (likely) absence of a male heir.


So William Bailey Partridge appeared as the fairy godfather to the 18 year old Mary Frances Elizabeth Hamp when he asked for her hand at their second meeting. They married, produced a family of 9 children, and by the time he died in 1909 he had repurchased most of the land her father had lost.


Bettina Maud was their third child and second daughter and maintained a close touch with her family. She and Henry Randolph [Trafford, of Michaelchurch Court ] had three children, of whom one died in infancy, but after only 10 years of marriage he died suddenly in 1910,leaving Maud a widow at the age of 35 with a daughter, Clare Margaret aged 10, and a son , Randolph, aged 3.




Randolph was to inherit the Estate and the £60,000 trust when he came of age in 1928, 18 years ahead. In the meanwhile it was administered by the Trustees. They were in 1910, the 14th Viscount Mountgarret and Sir Edward Hopton, nephew of Mrs. Charles Guy Trafford and married to her daughter, Clare Ellen. In 1912 they changed to Edward Michael Hopton and Guy Rawson Trafford, younger brother of Henry Randolph. In 1916 E.M. Hopton died and was succeeded by Lionel Guy Trafford, only son of the disinherited Edward Guy.


In 1910 The Court was let for 14 years to a Mrs Allen, and in 1913 Bettina Maud married Alfred Octavius Capper, whose chief skill was as a conjuror. He died in 1921, and, Mrs .Allen also having died, Bettina Maud was made responsible for the upkeep of the Court. For this, and for the maintenance and education of Randolph, the Trustees paid her, in 1919, £370 per annum. She considered this inadequate and the Trustees failing in their responsibilities and as a result of a court case her allowance was increased to £250 per quarter. This coincided with Randolph's move to Harrow.


The Trustees had to pay Death Duties of some £4,700 and had an income in 1911 of about £1500 p.a. The Duties were paid off by 1914, and by 1916 they had started to accumulate capital out of income. By 1925 income had risen to £2,500 p.a. Thus when Randolph came into his inheritance on 29 March 1928, he not only had the Estate but a useful increase in the Trust fund. In all, he would have received some £100,000, equivalent today to £4 million.




Randolph was a most handsome man and led a pretty gilded life. He had a flat in London which he shared with a friend, he learned to fly, and had his own aeroplane-and an airfield on the estate-and he kept a yacht on the Riviera. He learned to fly in Switzerland and had a villa in Geneva (which was sold in 1948 for £15,000).


He bought  ornaments  for  the Court, such as some  leaden greyhounds, but  he  does  not  appear  to  have  improved  the Estate. In 1941 he asked his sister Clare Margaret whether she and her husband, Michael John Hunter, would like to buy it from him, but she replied that, much as she would like to own it, they could not afford to put it in good repair.

Randolph, who served in the Fleet Air Arm, was killed in a flying accident in January, 1943, and left his whole estate, valued at £97,000, to his mother, apart from one legacy of £3,000 to his London flat-mate. His mother passed on the Michaelchurch Court Estate to her daughter, Clare Margaret Hunter in 1944 together with £20,000.She retained Firs Cottage and some 40 acres for herself.


Clare Margaret therefore inherited an Estate, during the Second World War, in a run down condition and without the buffer of the £60,000 'Trust money’, some of which Bettina Maud had retained. Much depended on the help her husband would be able to give her.




Clare Margaret had married Michael John Hunter in 1919 and thus brought this family into Herefordshire. Originally thought to have come from the Scottish Borders, the earliest Hunter who can be traced was William who was buried on 31 May, 1719 and who lived at Hatfield House, Ecclesfield, near Sheffield. His grandson was the first of 8 successive Michael Hunters and dealt in iron in Sheffield. His son, Michael 'the Founder ', started the family steel business in 1780, and the three following Michaels - ' the Elder', 'the Younger' and Michael Joseph - were all Master Cutlers.


Michael 'the Founder 'had been previously married and was the father of the Reverend Joseph Hunter FSA, who was very well known in his day., and is still much respected by local historians and genealogists as the author of the history of Hallamshire and several other books. He was Assistant Keeper of Public Records, an ardent genealogist and he traced his own ancestors as far back as he could. If anyone could have found an earlier forebear he would have. It was to him that Arms were granted in 1843, the crest being a beagle sitting with a paw on a book. The motto 'Vita si Cervina ' refers to the Stag's head on the shield and means 'avoid me if you do not want to become venison ' (ie, killed)


Possibly the most successful Michael was 'the Younger’ who was not only Master Cutler but also Mayor of Sheffield for two terms of office-in 1882 and 1883.It was he who bought the Stoke Hall Estate near Calver in Derbyshire in 1884.As well as a fine house it included 600 acres. His son Michael Joseph was not, in fact, the eldest; his older brother John Henry died on a business visit to Australia in 1889.


Both Michael 'the Younger' and Michael Joseph married wives who had some money in their own right. ‘The Younger1 married Martha Hawkesworth whose life interest in a trust of £16,000 was passed on to her 2 surviving children-Michael Joseph and Charles Stephen-and Michael Joseph's wife, Kate - nee Harrison - passed on £20,000 to hers-Michael John and Hilda.


Michael Joseph was a keen sportsman, as was his son Michael John. Both Michael John and his sister Hilda married into land-owning families in Herefordshire within 10 days of each other in 1919.Hilda married Nugent Hope of Whitney Court who had been at Trinity Hall, Cambridge with her brother, and Michael John and his bride went to live at Eardisley where they entered into a joint farming venture with a third party, with some financial involvement with Nugent Hope.


Michael Joseph died in 1926 leaving an estate valued at £15,500 and his son also inherited Stoke Hall, which was entailed. The entail was broken so that Michael John became the outright owner. The family business of Michael Hunter & Sons, of Talbot Works, Sheffield was sold and Michael John and Clare Margaret Hunter moved into Stoke Hall.


The venture at Eardisley, which had made a loss of over £14,000, was wound up in 1927, £5,000 of the loss being born by Nugent Hope under a guarantee, and the balance probably coming from the Kate Hunter legacy. Michael Henry Hunter was born there shortly before they left.


Michael John entered politics and became M.P. for Brigg from 1931-1935. When he lost that seat he was adopted by a Norfolk constituency and bought Gissing Hall, near Diss so as to 'nurse’ it. In 1937 he sold Stoke Hall for £32,000. Both at Stoke and at Gissing they lived in some style which they recorded on film. They also cruised with their young family in the Mediterranean.


In 1944, following Randolph's death, they owned both Gissing and Michaelchurch and in 1948,when he returned from military service, Michael Henry was asked to choose between them since he would have to run one or the other. He chose Michaelchurch, and Gissing was sold in 1950.


Michael John died suddenly out hunting in 1951, as a result of which Michael Henry's wedding was postponed for a month. On 24th May he married Rosemary Claire Bull so that there were now two Mrs. Cla(i)re Hunters at Michaelchurch as well as Mrs Capper, the widow of Henry Randolph Trafford who had died 41 years earlier.




At the age of 24 Michael Henry had the problems of running the farms, which had been neglected during the war when the Court was occupied by the Canadian Air Force. It mostly belonged to his mother, but his grand-mother owned Firs Cottage and its surrounding land.


He himself had no stake in the Estate, Bridge Farm where he and his bride lived having been put into a Trust for their children. Both filial duty and financial need bound him to Michaelchurch. It had also, of course, been his own choice. He was fortunate in that his wife had private means. She was the elder daughter of Arthur and Angela Bull, of Bryn Derwen Court, near Usk.




The Bulls traced themselves back to Nicholas of Great Casterton, Rutland, who lived from 1631 to 1714. From being Yeoman farmers, they graduated via the Church to school-mastering at Harrow, and Arthur's father owned his own school, St. Andrews at Southborough in Kent. It was here that Arthur met Angela, the sister of one of the pupils, Theodore Beit, and he married her in 1927. She was the elder daughter of Sir Otto Beit, whose brother Alfred had been financial adviser to Cecil Rhodes. Alfred died unmarried in 1906, leaving a fortune of £8 million. Otto administered the Trust which Alfred set up and was made a baronet in 1924.He also built up an Art collection which his son, Alfred, improved and made into one of the world's best. He died in 1930.


THE 1960's


In 1962 Bettina Maud Capper died. She had inherited a trust from her father, part of which she had given to her daughter in 1944, and had benefited from the estate of her brother, Richard, who was killed in the war in 1918. She also had property in her own right, and had retained a part of her inheritance from Randolph. She left the balance of her father's trust to her 4 grandchildren, and the Firs Cottage to William Guy Christopher Trafford, grandson of her husband's spendthrift brother and son of one of Randolph's Trustees.

As Michael Henry wished to live there, and it was an integral part of the estate, he was bought out by Clare Margaret and Michael Henry's wife, Claire. Unfortunately Guy Trafford died in 1964 so that the money he received attracted Death Duties twice.


Mrs. Capper was also very generous, both in her Will and in her lifetime to the Vicar of Michaelchurch, Mr.Richards, who also lived at Firs Cottage. Unsurprisingly the family did not like him.


The residue of her Estate went to her daughter, and perhaps towards repaying a mortgage which Bettina Maud's Trustees had made to the Michaelchurch Estate. Following the death of his grandmother, Michael Henry and his wife moved to Firs Cottage which was improved and renamed Escley House.


Then in 1968 his mother Clare Margaret decided to move to Portugal " to escape British taxes and British weather" and flew there in a specially chartered plane together with her 80 Maltese Terriers and 2 stray cats. She handed on to her son the Michaelchurch Estate, except for some 200 acres which he asked her to pass direct to his son, Michael Andrew Richard.


Michael Henry and Claire decided not to live at the Court which was both expensive to run and in much need of improvement. It was therefore sold.


Clare Margaret's Trustees had bought, with her mother's help, a house in London, 11 Dawson Place. In 1961 Anthony Duke, a partner in the family solicitors, Evans Barraclough & Co. who looked after her affairs, left the practice and went solo, at one time practising at 11a, Dawson Place. In 1969 he was struck off the Roll of Solicitors for false accounting and conduct unbecoming a solicitor.


His successor as family solicitor, Anthony Tubbs, [who had been at Eton with Michael Henry Hunter] was subsequently also struck off, and it has to be said that Clare Margaret was not good at choosing her advisers. Whether she was one of their victims in not known, but it certainly did not make for continuity in running family affairs.


THE 1980's


By the end of the 1970s Michael Henry had most of the estate in hand and well under control. Early in the 1980's the disease that was to kill Michael Henry began its insidious progress. He died on 8th November 1988 and was buried with his Hunter and Trafford forbears at Michaelchurch Escley in the presence of many who recognised the passing of an era. The Estate was put on the market by his widow, to whom it was left, and it was eventually sold on 20th February, 1990 to Mr. John Williams.


The Ewyas Lacy Study Group have omitted certain personal and financial details relating to relatively modern times from James Gunn’s original text, to respect the privacy of surviving family members and others.

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