When a king pops in for tea

In thinking about the next blog post I was inspired by the upcoming 90th birthday celebrations for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and I set my mind back through my earlier house histories searching for something with a royal link. However, sadly, I’ve never had the opportunity to research Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, but I have researched a farm house in Nottinghamshire with a surprising link with King Edward VIII!

The Beeches (image courtesy of Chestertons)
The Beeches (image courtesy of Chestertons)

The Beeches is situated down a quiet country lane on the outskirts of Nottingham and was first built as a small cottage called Home Farm Cottage attached to the estate of the Manvers family of Holme Pierrepont. One of the earliest occupants was farmer, William Richards, recorded in the house at the time of a survey of the estate in 1803. His son, George, took over the cottage and farm during the 1820s, where he continued with his family through to the 1850s. The 1851 census reveals George Richards in the house, 69 years old, ‘cottager for 8 & 1/2 acres of land’, along with his wife Margaret and their granddaughter, 13 year old Ann.

1851 census - George and Margaret Richards
1851 census – George and Margaret Richards

George continued at The Beeches until he died at the age of 89 in 1871 when it passed to his son William and his wife Elizabeth. However, during the 1870s the Richards family left The Beeches, still known as Home Farm Cottage, and it became the home of dairy farmer, William Slack.

The map below shows Home Farm Cottage, today’s The Beeches, to the right of the lodge to Holme Pierrepont Hall as it was at the turn of the 20th century.

Ordnance survey map
Ordnance survey map, 1900

During the late 19th century, the 4th Earl Manvers set about renovating the small Home Farm Cottage, as well as adding additional farm buildings to house his herd of pedigree Shorthorn Cattle. In the early 1900s the house became the home of ‘cowman’, Christopher Dobson, along with his wife Hannah and their three children. The Dobson family continued at the house through the years of the First World War to 1918-19, but by the 1920s the house had become the home of William Shelton. Shelton became known as the gentleman farmer and is believed to have apparently worked in white gloves! It was at this time, during the 1920s, that the house was extended and its name changed from Home Farm Cottage to The Beeches.

King Edward VIII
King Edward VIII

It was also at this time that it is believed, the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VIII would pop in and visit The Beeches for a cup of tea. He would often visit Lamcote House (also owned by Earl Manvers) when he was visiting his mistress, Freda Dudley Ward.

Sheila Loughborough, Edward VIII, Freda Dudley Ward, and George VI

He would also visit Holme Pierrepont and it was during these visits that an old farmer recalls the prince visiting The Beeches!

At the onset of the Second World War, the Manvers Estate, which had been in financial trouble for some time, was placed on the market, including the ‘very attractive farm, formerly the Home Farm of the 4th Earl…and used by him for his world-renowned herd of Shorthorns…Together with a delightful house and model farm buildings’.

Still today, the house is situated in a quiet area on the outskirts of Nottingham, but despite its seemingly ‘simple’ history as a farmhouse, it is a fantastic example of a house that can have an unexpected history. It is uncertain how many times the Prince of Wales would pop into the kitchen of The Beeches and sit down for a cup of tea, but it is certainly a great story!

The Beeches
The Beeches

Byron’s love affair at Burgage House

In 1806, Burgage House in Southwell was the scene of a scandal involving a young Lord Byron, and the daughter of the house, Julia Leacroft. The story unravels like something out of a Jane Austen novel and almost culminated in a duel between Byron and Julia’s brother, John Leacroft.

Burgage House, Southwell
Burgage House, Southwell (image courtesy of Humberts)

Burgage House was built in the late 18th century and is situated along King Street near Burgage Green in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries it was the home of the Leacroft family and where the poet, Lord Byron visited several times between 1803 and 1807.

Lord Byron, 1818
Lord Byron, 1818

Byron came to the small town of Southwell to visit his mother, who was renting nearby Burgage Manor. From 1803 he would visit during school holidays from Harrow, and then later when he was at Cambridge. While visiting his mother, Byron established close friendships with neighbouring families, in particular with Elizabeth and John Pigot, living across the road, and siblings, John and Julia Leacroft at Burgage House.

In the summer of 1806, the group of friends decided to amuse themselves by staging amateur dramatics in Burgage House – where the ‘…drawing room was converted into a neat theatre for the occasion.’ In fact, the story much resembles the scene in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park!

1806-1808 fashions (image courtesy of British Library)
1806-1808 fashions (courtesy of British Library)

Byron took the lead male role, while Julia Leacroft played the lead female role, and the pair became very close. After the fun of the theatricals, the flirtations between Byron and Julia continued leading to rumours amongst the people of Southwell. By January 1807 it was assumed amongst many – particularly the Leacroft family – that the pair would marry. However, Byron had no intention of marrying Julia and the circumstances soon caused a scandal in the quiet community of Southwell.

Byron also wrote two poems referring to Julia Leacroft, the first was actually entitled To Julia and published in his first collection, Fugitive Pieces, but the title was later changed to To Lesbia. In the poem he is addressing Julia and explaining he no longer loves her:

‘Tis I, that am alone to blame,
I, that am guilty of love’s treason;
Since your sweet breast, is still the same,
Caprice must be my only reason.’


The second poem, To a Lady, published in Hours of Idleness in 1807 talks of an assignation in the garden. It is possible to imagine a scene in the once large garden (now largely lost) beside Burgage House of a clandestine meeting between the young Julia and Byron.

It has been suggested that the Leacroft family attempted to entrap Byron and force him to marry Julia, but Byron made a hasty departure from Southwell just in time. Surviving letters between Byron and Julia’s brother John reveal the hostility between the former friends, and there is a rumour that John may have challenged Byron to a duel. In a later letter Byron wrote to John and said, “if we must cut each other’s throats to please our relations, you will do me the justice to say it is from no personal animosity between us.”


Byron never visited the Leacroft family again and soon after he stopped visiting Southwell altogether. Burgage House continued as the home of the Leacroft family throughout the 19th century, with magistrate William Swymmer Leacroft recorded as the owner from the 1830s through to his death in 1857. It then passed to William’s brother Edward and sister Caroline, until the 1870s, when after almost 90 years in the same family the house was sold.