Royal links and gentlemen farmers in Lincolnshire

A short time ago I was asked to research the history of this striking 17th century house in Lincolnshire. Despite being tucked away in a quiet village in rural Lincolnshire, this house has a number of connections to prominent historic figures and events, including two wives of King Henry VIII and the Putney Debates during the Civil War.

St Benedicts Priory
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk by Hans Holbein, 1539

The house is situated on the historic site of the former 12th century Benedictine priory, established in 1139, as part of Thorney Abbey in Cambridgeshire. However, in 1539, it suffered the same fate as the Abbey and was reclaimed under Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1540, the lands and buildings were given to Tudor politician, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, who was also the uncle of two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

However, by the early 17th century, the manor of Deeping St James was in the hands of the Wymondsold family and it was at this time that a new house, first known as Priory farmhouse, was constructed using original stonework from the demolished 12th century priory buildings. The Wymonsold family, also of Putney (now south west London) and Berkshire, are believed to have been responsible for building the priory farmhouse. Several 17th century deeds confirm the Wymondsold ownership of the manor of Deeping St James, ‘late called the cell of Thorney otherwise called the late priory of Deeping St James’, which included the priory farmhouse.

General Thomas Fairfax by Robert Walker

William Wymondsold was High Sheriff of Putney at a pivotal moment in history, during the Civil War, and at the time of the Putney Debates, held at St Mary’s Church in Putney in 1647. The Debates were held between members of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army, including Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, and Sir Thomas Fairfax, and other politicians and soldiers to discuss the future of England and pivotal constitutional questions, including the rights of men and freedom of speech. At this time, it has been recorded that the Parliamentary Commander Sir Thomas Fairfax, was billeted at the home of William Wymondsold (the largest house in Putney – formerly located on the site of Putney train station).

After the Restoration of the Monarchy, several members of the Wymondsold family were noted Royalists and were favoured by a succession of monarchs. Charles II was said to have favoured Sir Dawes Wymondsold, and during the 1660s and 1670s William Wymondsold was recorded as a ‘Royal Ayd unto the King’ (‘Ayd’ being in the form of finance), and in 1684, King James II knighted Robert Wymondsold.

Meanwhile, life was continuing at the Priory Farmhouse in Deeping St James. By the early 18th century, the manor of Deeping St James had passed to the Whichcote family. They were a prominent local family, who were later based in Aswarby Hall near Sleaford (now demolished). By 1776, the manor was held by Sir Christopher Whichcote, and a surviving rent receipt reveals the occupant of the priory farmhouse was Mr John Pawlett.

Rent receipt for Priory Farm – 1776

Rent books and further records reveal John Pawlett was living at Priory Farmhouse, while farming over 400 acres of surrounding land. John Pawlett was also actively involved in the local community and was recorded as an acting vestryman (early council member) and was an overseer of the poor, responsible for distributing poor relief to those in need within the parish. John’s son, also named John, followed his father at Priory Farmhouse, and also in his involvement in community affairs and later, during the 1840s, he became chief constable of Deeping St James.

The Pawlett family continued at the Priory Farmhouse throughout the 19th century, when it was recorded with several names, including ‘Priory House’ and ‘The Priory’. The 1851 census reveals John Pawlett, junior, with his wife Elizabeth, living at ‘Priory House’ and John was farming ‘250 acres and employing 6 labourers outdoors’ and in addition, their son, Edmund, was also farming ‘400 acres and employing 15 labourers outdoors’. The family also had three live-in servants.

1851 census – Priory House

Edmund Pawlett followed his father at Priory House and by the time of the 1871 census he was farming 800 acres and employing 20 men and seven boys. Edmund Pawlett did not marry and the 1881 census shows he was still living at ‘The Priory’, 66 years old, and by this time he was farming and enormous area of ‘2900 acres and employing 40 men and boys’.

1881 census – The Priory

Like his father and grandfather before him, Edmund Pawlett played a key role in the life of the local community and, along with providing employment for many local men, he was involved in the formation of the school board in 1876, on which he continued to serve into the 1880s. Edmund passed away in 1885 and for the first time in over 100 years the house became the home of a different family and it passed to farmer, Richard Ward.

Ordnance Survey map – 1886

Richard Ward and his son, Albert, continued to farm at ‘The Priory’ through to the early 20th century, but by the 1920s the impact of the First World War, along with changes in the ownership of the farm and house, brought about several changes. By the 1950s it had passed through several owners and, in 1959, it  was sold again and became the home of Mrs Doris Hall. Mrs Hall continued at the Priory Farmhouse for almost 30 years and in 1987 she sold it to the Rickard family. By this time, the 17th century house was in much need of care and attention. The Rickard family set about restoring and renovating the house and its many historic features.

Now known as St Benedicts Priory, the Grade II* listed house has seen many alterations and changes, but it still retains a number of original features, including a dogleg staircase with turned balusters, as well as an original studded door, and moulded stone mullion windows. It also has a few features that give a glimpse of the former history and the association with the Benedictine priory.





Winston Churchill and The Rolling Stones in Putney

The history of Hotham Hall in Putney is one of my favourites as it strongly illustrates that no matter what a house looks like – or even how old it is – you can uncover a fascinating history! This former community hall in the quiet streets of Putney is linked with a number of famous names, including Winston Churchill and The Rolling Stones!

Hotham Hall (courtesy of Chestertons)
Hotham Hall (courtesy of Chestertons)

I first researched the history of Hotham Hall while working with Chestertons in 2007. Snippets of the history were known, but I was so excited to discover a long list of famous names associated with this former community hall in the streets of Putney.

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill

Hotham Hall was first built as St Mary’s Hall shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, in 1913. The freehold of the land was donated to St John’s Church by two sisters, Blanche and Elma Grace Miles, in 1911, specifically for the building of a public hall for the growing Putney community.

The hall was designed by Douglas Wells and constructed by builders, William Brown & Sons and officially opened by local magistrate Mr Samuel Samuel in 1913.

Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden

During the early history of the hall it was the location for local lectures and community and political events, and it was in May 1933 that future Prime Minister, Winston Churchill addressed a meeting of the Primrose League. He spoke on the future of India and declared ‘that the nations in their perplexity leaned upon England and found here a strong prop’.

The following year, in November 1934, St Mary’s Hall was the location for another political meeting. This time for the National Conservative candidate, Mr Marcus Samuel (nephew of Mr Samuel Samuel who had opened the hall 20 years earlier) for the Putney By-Election. Guest speaker supporting Mr Samuel was another future Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, who at that time was Lord Privy Seal and Minister for the League of Nations.

Hotham Hall (courtesy of Chestertons)
Hotham Hall (courtesy of Chestertons)

Rolling StonesAlong with political meetings, St Mary’s Hall was the location for lectures and music events, including local Christmas carol concerts. In particular, during the 1960s, it was used as a venue for upcoming British bands and on 22 December 1963 was the location for a performance of The Rolling Stones as part of their first UK tour.

The Rolling Stones were supported by rising band, who were still performing by the name, The Detours, and came to be known as The Who. It has been said that it was here Pete Townsend noticed Keith Richards warm up by swinging his arm before going on stage which inspired Townsend to create his famous ‘windmill’ strum.

The Who actually played at St Mary’s Hall several times during the early 60s and in 1964  they were supported by The Tremeloes. A local resident remembers this concert where the Tremeloes gave out sweets to promote their new song, Candy Man, which later rose to No.6 in the UK charts.

The Who
The Who

St Mary’s Hall continued to be used as a local hall and event venue, but by the 1980s it had fallen into disrepair and it closed in 1986. It was purchased for redevelopment in the 1990s at which time it was renamed Hotham Hall. It was transformed into luxury ‘loft-style’ apartments by The Raven Group, which first went on sale in 1997.

Behind the seemingly simple Edwardian façade of a former community hall, an extraordinary history is uncovered at Hotham Hall.