Lady Day

This year, Easter falls early with Good Friday being celebrated on the 25th March.  This date has other significance, as, prior to 1752, it marked the first day of the new year, roughly coinciding with the spring equinox.  It is known as Lady Day (Feast of the Annunciation) and was a day when accounts were settled, being one of the quarter days used in England for financial and legal proceedings, the others being Midsummer (Feast of St John the Baptist) 24th June, Michaelmas (Feast of St Michael and All Angels) 29th September and Christmas Day (Feast of the Nativity) 25th December.

In Scotland, the quarter days are Candlemas (Feast of the Purification) 2nd February, Whitsuntide (Pentecost) 15th May, Lammas (Long Mass) 1st August and Martinmas (Feast of St Martin) 11th November.

One example from the Graham collection provides details of tenants on the Nunington Estate and records the half year rent payments made on Lady Day in 1656. The document itself is dated 19th June 1656.

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Nunnington Estate Rental. Copyright : North Yorkshire County Record Office

The initial statement reads ‘A perfect particular of the severall rents that the severall tenants of Nunnington, Stonegrave and West Ness paid accordingly as every one agreed with the Lord of the Mannor for there severall farmes and cot[tages] for a yeare or three yeares from Lady Day last and what every one paid for the halfe yeare from [torn] Michaelmas 1655 till Lady Day last 1656 and what and which of them is in arrears.’  The Lord of the Manor at this time was Ranald Graham, uncle to Richard Graham, 1st Bt of Norton Conyers. Named tenants include John Blackbeard who rents 4 oxganges (a land measurement equal to 60-80 acres, based on fertility rather than purely size) for 07-00-00 (£756), but he is in arrears for this amount. Robert Mansell has paid his rent in full for his cottage and Elizabeth Ranard has paid for her cottage in West Ness.

Needless to say other sources (such as maps for example) need to be consulted in tandem to identify where exactly these places/properties were located which, in turn, helps to build up an exact picture of who was living where, what monies were being paid and how this was administered. Even so a document such as this gives a solid starting point from which to continue.

Happy Easter!


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Blacklands House

What has caught my eye recently has been the accounts sent to Sir Bellingham, 5th Baronet, concerning the education of his two daughters, Miss Elizabeth and Miss Catherine (Kitty) Graham between 1776-1779.

As you can see, from one example below, the two girls were given lessons in painting, drawing, music, dancing and geography as well as how to make their own pens and a penknife. Expenses, such as ‘red Moroco pumps’ and the apothecary’s bill are covered and pocket money for the holidays is paid to them too. I was at a loss as to where the teaching was taking place, until I came across a covering note, in a very fragile state, which had become separated from the invoices. It shows the sender of the accounts, Mary Stockley, being based at Blacklands House. I was intrigued to see if I could learn anything further about this school and whether it had been well renowned.

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Invoice and covering letter. Copyright: North Yorkshire County Record Office

Research identified the property as being located in Blacklands Terrace, on the north side of Marlborough Road in Chelsea, London. I could not establish when it was built, but in 1655 it was understood to have been the residence of Charles Cheyne, later Lord Cheyne and Viscount Newhaven.  In 1684 the recorded occupant was Count Montefeltro, survived by his Countess who was still residing there in 1696.  As of 1702 it was occupied by Mrs Judith Nazareau (or Nezerauw) who ran an expensive French boarding school for elite young ladies until the late 1720s. During 1715, Sir Robert Walpole’s two daughters were attending.  It was thought to have continued its useage as a fashionable boarding school, but the sources seem to have dried up somewhat, so it’s rather significant that this receipt from 1779, shows that this was definitely the case and that, presumably, Mary Stockley was the owner and headmistress there. Furthermore, I discovered a Miss Fearnside, a former pupil and later mistress at the school, died in 1811 aged 54, meaning that it was most likely she was teaching there when the Misses Grahams were in residence.

The function of the property changed in 1829 when it operated as a private asylum, until 1861, under the direction of Alexander John Sutherland (1811-1867), an established metropolitan physician and his son Alexander Robert Sutherland. After the death of the elder Alexander it continued as an asylum for the insane with fifteen male inmates recorded in 1871.

In 1890 the Cadogan Estate bought out the Blacklands asylum and gave one acre of the estate to the Guinness Trust for working-class housing. The Guinness Partnership (as it is now known) still operates today, even though the property itself, sadly, has long gone.

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If you could just sign here…

A popular hobby during the nineteenth century was the collecting of autographs; within the Graham Family papers there is a good example of this, an Autograph Album, thought to have belonged to Sir Bellingham Graham 7th Bt. The album contains seals, envelopes and entire letters as well as the expected signatures and has been arranged under groupings such as Royalty, Peers, Bishops, Statesmen and Authors.  Notable signatures include those of Lord Byron and Thomas Jefferson. At first glance, the only female signature to be included belongs to Queen Victoria.

The album was in a sorry state, with the front and back boards and spine having become detached, therefore extensive conservation work has been started by our wonderful in-house conservator, Rachel Greenwood. The first phase has seen surface cleaning of the text block, which had become very dirty without a proper cover to protect it, and repairs to the items within which had been torn in places.

The signatures, some of which have been cut from correspondence, plus other items, had been pasted in with animal glue. There were also many loose items at the back of the album which had not been fixed in place and these have been housed in a separate folder as it would be inappropriate for a conservator to place them in the relevant section if they hadn’t originated there.

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Page showing a letter from Sir Joshua Reynolds on the right and Lord Byron on the left.  Copyright: North Yorkshire County Record Office

Two of the fabulous project volunteers have begun listing and indexing the signatories so that we can identify exactly who has been included; some handwritten annotations provide useful dates etc, but further research is required to obtain full details for each signatory. The results of this work will prove invaluable for researchers, expecially where a complete letter has been retained.

The second phase of conservation work will involve re-sewing part of the text block to attach the marble end papers, protecting the wax seals with interleaving tissue and re-binding with tooled leather covers and housing in a custom made Phase Box.

The results of this work will be demonstrated at a forthcoming Conservation Workshop to be held as part of a Roadshow event at Samwaies Hall, Wath on 16th July, see the Events page for details.

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Games people play

Amongst the papers of Mary Shiffner,(1815-1894), who was the fondly regarded Mother-in-Law of Sir Reginald, 8th Baronet, there survives a delightful fortune-telling style Victorian parlour game, which is charming in its simplicity.  Twelve different questions have been posed on a different piece of card for each one, with an instruction as to whether it should be asked of a ‘Lady’ or ‘Gentleman’. The question is written on the face; for example,  How will you become rich? and on the reverse, twelve possible answers are given, correlating to a number between one and twelve which has been chosen by the person playing. Answers given for the above question include, by own exertions, by industry, by marriage, by publishing poems, by gaming, by a new invention and by keeping a dram shop.

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Victorian parlour game and poem. Copyright: North Yorkshire County Record Office

Another item, shown in the image above, is a poem from 1755 which  gives Advice to a new married sister. Given the sentiment of the piece, and lines such as ‘sooth ev’ry toil and ev’ry pain allay, seldom advise & never disobey’ one would hope that it has been kept to amuse later generations as to the duties of a wife, rather than one of pure instruction.

One amusement which reminds me of words spelt out on a calculator is the number 7559795/5559, which has been written in such a way, that when reflected in a mirror, answers a question about Louis Napoleon, as it spells out Empereur.

Amongst the papers of Sir Reginald himself, is a notebook containing one hundred conundrums.  Here are a few to ponder, with answers at the bottom of the page.

  1. What is it which makes everyone sick, but those who swallow it?
  2. My first is a preposition, my second is a composition, and both an acquisition
  3. Why is a cook like a dancing master?
  4. What lives in Winter dies in Summer and grows with its root uppermost.

I always enjoy coming across examples of how people amused themselves, see what was considered entertaining and how leisure time was spent. As with other material highlighted within the blog, it’s striking to see just how similar historic and modern lives are, caught up with the same pre-occupations and pleasures. It’s obvious to me, regardless of the time period, that the desire to amuse one another with clever word play and social interaction is constant.

Have fun, whatever you get up to!


Conundrum answers:

  1. Flattery
  2. Fortune
  3. He cuts capers
  4. Icicle



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Teasing out the truth

The Graham family papers also include those belonging to the Cage and Slingsby families who had been resident at Kippax Hall, West Yorkshire and received a regular income from the coal mined there.  Elizabeth Cage died without issue in 1710 and the Kippax estates devolved to Sir Reginald Graham, 4th Baronet.

Previously, William Slingsby had bought the property and mining interests in 1624, from Francis Baildon, and they subsequently passed to his grand-daughter Elizabeth, who married Adlard Cage, a solicitor in Holborn, in 1697.  What rapidly became a mystery was a reference to a ‘sonne’ in letters between the two. He appeared to be of full age, as he was ‘in want of a wyfe’, but no birth record could be found, other than that of a daughter born to the couple, Ann (1697-1698). Neither could I find a previous marriage record for Adlard, who was potentially fifty plus when he married Elizabeth, although a baptism date for him has not been found as yet.

Subsequent reading of the Cage correspondence showed that the ‘sonne’ referred to, was a Richard Garth (1682-1727) who held estates in Morden, Surrey. Ownership of these was in dispute (perhaps his need of a solicitor initiated the relationship?) as his great-grandmother had married twice, firstly to John Cotton, and secondly to John Carleton, from whom Richard Garth was descended, but she had died without leaving a will, resulting in ongoing wranglings between Garth and the Cotton descendent, another John, as to who had legal ownership.

Why Richard should be refererred to as a son, is, for the time being, unclear. If he had been legally adopted, he might have inherited the Kippax estates; furthermore, his natural mother was still alive at his time of writing, as can be seen below, not to mention the acquisition of a wife!

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This letter, written to Adlard, declares ‘Pray, Sir my humble duty to my mother (Elizabeth Cage) and wish her a good journey’, but at the foot of the letter, he states ‘My mother prays her humble service to you and all your good family’ – most confusing!

One of the other Cage correspondents, E Boevey, is connected in some way too, as Richard appears to be lodging with her in Greenwich; she writes very chatty letters including details of the Cotton dispute, but Richard’s natural mother was Catherine, nee Stone – so no solution there, but a son of Richard’s was christened Bouvey….

If this puzzle is ever solved – I’ll be sure to post an update here!

Update now available below….

Since the time of writing this post, one of the fabulous project volunteers, Heather, has been able to dig a little further and answered part of the conundrum as can be seen from her comment below.  The Registers of Morden, Surrey, 1634-1812 help explain, albeit somewhat paraphrased here for brevity:

Richard Garth married Catherine and died without issue. In his will dated 15th May, 1697, proved in P.C.C, 1st August, 1700, he states that he had no children by his wife, Catherine, (nor presumably by his second wife Jane), therefore he bequeathed all his estates in default of issue to the use and behoof of Richard Boevey, son of Elizabeth Boevey, who was sister to Jane  “soe that he take upon him, calls, and writes himselfe, by the sirname of Garth always after any part of my estate shall come to him in possession by virtue of this my will.” It’s also somewhat amusing to note a Jane Austen reference here, as the maiden name of sisters Elizabeth and Jane was Bennett! Great result Heather – thank you!

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Familial ties

This week, project volunteers have been continuing apace, working through various tasks connected with the Graham family papers; from cleaning filthy deeds with smoke sponges, sorting more vouchers and correspondence, to transcribing an inventory of the effects of Sir Henry Ingram, 1st Viscount Irvine (1641-1666), a title created by the Peerage of Scotland. His mother was Eleanor Slingsby, a cousin of the Slingsbys who held the Manor of Kippax and were related to the Graham’s through marriage.

The inventory, taken after Sir Henry’s death in August 1666, at Temple Newsam, is a twenty page document and shows, room by room, what was held therein.  As you can see from the first page shown below, the ‘best chamber over the kitching’, used as a bed chamber, is richly furnished with tapestries, carpets, quilts, blankets and fabrics such as dimothy (dimity), sarcenett (sarsenet), damask and velvet, plus serge and worstead for the items requiring heavier use.

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Temple Newsam inventory, 1666. Copyright : North Yorkshire County Record Office.

I was keen to know who the trusted appraisers were, to be conducting such an important task. Sir John Lewis ((1615-1671) of Ledstone (8 miles SE of Temple Newsan) had acquired his large fortune from trading in Persia and India and had been invested as a Knight at The Hague, in 1660.  He was created a Baronet later that same year and held several manors in Yorkshire.

Henry Bethell (c.1606-1668) had held several Offices within Yorkshire and was MP for Knaresborough in 1660.  He was the son of Mary Slingsby, sister to Eleanor mentioned above and therefore, a cousin of Sir Henry Ingram.

Finally, William Marwood.  My initial searches returned details of a nineteenth century hangman of the same name, but I finally tracked this William down.  He was brother-in-law to Henry Bethell detailed above, whose sister Frances had married William’s brother George, a Sherriff of York.

It is hardly surprising that those chosen to do the inventory were known to each other, and I thought it highly probable they were executors of Sir Henry’s will.  However, a recently unearthed document states that the Earl of Manchester, Mr Henry Slingsby and George Townend were the executors. A trip to Temple Newsam to see if any of these sumptuous heirlooms remain in the house methinks!

Enjoy your week


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‘I’ve been at Mr Bull’s…’

One of the most interesting elements of any archive collection is seeing how other people go about their daily business and what things are of interest.  I was charmed to read, in a letter from William Todd to Sir Reginald Graham (1670-1728), 2nd Baronet of Norton Conyers, dated London 8th July 1712, the following “know that I have been at Mr Bull’s and he sells his best Bohea tea at 26s per lb, his best green tea at 16s, his coffee at 6s 3d, his chockolate without sugar at 3s 6d and with sugar at 2s.”

Needless to say, I was rather curious as I’d never heard of Bohea tea before, plus, I found my eyebrow raising at the option of buying ‘chockolate with sugar’ at a much lower price; the sweet stuff was no doubt more popular than the unadulterated cocoa even then.  As for tea, the initial fashion had been for Hyson green tea which became very popular, being served in many gentrified drawing rooms. Gradually, it was replaced by the darker teas, such as Pekoe (a type of Bohea), which was achieved by oxidisation.  Bohea tea was from the Wuyi mountain region of Fujian, China, where its production was pioneered by monks; Bohea being an anglicised pronunciation of Wuji.

1 Richard Collins, A Family of Three at Tea, 1727

Family of three at tea, Richard Collins, 1727

As for Mr Bull; he is Richard Bull who was a druggist and noted coffee dealer, based at the Golden Lion on Ludgate Hill, London.  On 22nd December 1704, he registered the first recorded coffee-related patent, creating ‘a new way of roasting coffee berries without charcoal, in a furnace with a case or barrel and box which preserves the volatile spirit from evaporating and secures berries from smoke and steam’.

Something seems to have gone awry a year later as in the London Gazette, he is recorded as assigning his estate, debts and effects to Matthew Wright and John Catesby, his sons-in-law who carried on with the business. There is also reference to the business moving to the King’s Arms at the west end of St Paul’s Church in Ludgate Street, but no date as to this, although I’m assuming he may have moved up the hill as his business developed.

There’s also a letter to Sir Reginald about the procurement of five lottery tickets, dated 7th March 1718;  it seems things haven’t changed that much at all really…


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From Latin docs to Pontefract cakes

This morning I popped in and wished a Happy New Year to the local Latin Group. Currently, they’re transcribing and translating one of the Court Rolls for the Manor of Kippax, located to the north of Pontefract.

We discussed several questions, but the one which set the detective hound in me questing was to do with the name of Pontefract, which is mentioned in the document concerned. I was asked what the latinised name was, as  Pons Fractus (meaning broken bridge), and what you would expect to see, isn’t what is written down. One lady thought it might be a contraction of Pomfret, i.e Pomit, a local name for Pontefract.

I asked a colleague for some advice and she found that in the Domesday Book, Pontefract is recorded as Tateshale and in records contemporary to that, also as Tanshelf, but that wasn’t the right answer here.  I then contacted the West Yorkshire Archive Service to see if they could assist as they love a mystery too!

Kippax Court Roll excerpt

Kippax court roll excerpt. words 6 and 9 on the last line are the word in question. Copyright : North Yorkshire County Record Office

Another question posed, was,  if Pons Fractus means broken bridge, when did this happen?  One answer, given on a local history site seems rather current, given the ongoing changing weather patterns. It appears the area flooded c.1200 and affected the bridge, thus the main road was diverted eastwards closer to Ferrybridge and remains there still.

Another answer is that a group of Anglo-Scandinavian rebels destroyed the bridge in 1069 thus preventing William the Conqueror crossing to put down an uprising in York.

As with most historical queries, the answer is often a composite one.  But it’s always intriguing to see which direction just one word in one document from the many in the Graham Collection, can send you.  An enjoyable morning with lots of other questions brewing…

Fancy a cuppa anyone?


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Festive frolics

It’s been a perfect opportunity in the lead up to Christmas to invite project volunteers to attend a Thank-you lunch for all their hard work over the year, thus acknowledging their contribution and providing an opportunity to meet other people working on different aspects of the project and discussing how the various tasks differ and how they all contribute to the whole.

Volunteers are a mainstay of projects such as this and it was a real pleasure to bring everyone who contributes to the smooth running of the County Record Office together.

Somewhat strangely, there are very few christmas cards or anything remotely festive within the Graham archive collection.  There is a scrapbook album which was prepared as a christmas gift by the Stobart siblings for their mother whilst they were tenants at Norton Conyers, but it isn’t obviously seasonal, save for a small inscription giving the date as Xmas 1877.

The one christmas card example there is, comes from the papers of Beatrice Spencer-Smith, later wife of Sir Richard Graham – 10th Baronet, who was in touch with a cosmopolitan crowd, following her posting as Lady-in-waiting to Lady Tweedsmuir and her time in Canada between 1935-1937. The rather exotic postcard, shown below is from the Far East and features some additional colouring. ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ is printed on the reverse.

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Christmas postcard. Copyright : North Yorkshire County Record Office.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone well for the festive season and I look forward to bringing you further interesting snippets from this wonderful collection in the New Year.

Merry Christmas!



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Alms-houses and A B C

Whilst the project volunteers have been making steady progress on the estate vouchers and the papers of Sir Guy, Lady Katherine, Sir Richard and Lady Beatrice this week, I’ve been very self indulgent; going through some earlier material which has caught my eye. These documents are from the papers of Lady Mary Graham (1681-1753) who inherited the Manor of Nunnington and its lands including the hospital school.  As can be seen from this memorandum below, an additional six acres, known as Croft Close located in Hovingham, just outside of Nunnington, was purchased in 1735, to extend what the Hospital School could provide .

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Memorandum and receipt from Graham Family of Norton Conyers Collection. Copyright : North Yorkshire County Record Office

The hospital school was originally founded by Ranald Graham, prior to 1678, with a rent-charge of £20 issuing out of the Manor of Nunnington.  Of this sum, one receipt from 1684, shows £9 being split amongst the six alms-houses and for employing a schoolmaster. Other people contributed to the charity, and funds  were spent on housing and clothing (blue serge gowns and coats anyone?) the poor and educating two pupils, such as John Letby and Alice Moor mentioned below.  It is interesting to see that girls were being educated at this time too. Repairs to the building and  employment of a woman to wind the school clock were other regular outgoings.

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One invoice and a receipt from the Graham Family of Norton Conyers Collection. Copyright : North Yorkshire County Record Office.

It’s easy to become sidetracked by small collections such as this, but it’s the detailed study of them which expand our knowledge of the collection and the lands and inhabitants represented.

Catch you next week!


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