Chapter IV. The Hall House Estate

REFERENCE has already been made to Dr. Thoroton’s statement, that the third Edward Golding “was proprietor of the whole town, and impropriate rectory, saving that part which his father sold to Mr. Francis Hacker, whereon he built an house.” The date of this sale was probably 1622 or 1623. The negotiations for the sale were not completed without a law-suit in the Court of Chancery in 1622. From the pleadings in this suit we learn that one Symon Ognell, acting on behalf of the Goldings (viz., Edward the second and Edward the third), offered certain lands, of which the boundaries are given; for sale to Francis Hacker, esq., then of Ratcliffe-upon­Trent. Mr. Hacker says that he came to an agreement with Ognell to pay at the rate of £5 an acre, the lands to be conveyed free of all encumbrance; they went together to the Goldings, who confirmed the bargain and maintained that the lands contained 238 acres at the least and demanded and still demand payment. But he has been informed that there was a lease, which had not been extinguished, made by Thomas Kitson, of whom the premises were purchased by the first Edward Golding, and that there is an annual rent-charge of £50 reserved to Kitson and his heirs; and that there are divers other charges and encumbrances” by which he is likely to be greatly dampnified in spite of which they urge him to proceed with the bargain and pay them the money, and threaten proceedings at law if he does not.” Edward Golding (the second), in his answer, says that the lease was extinguished when his father purchased the fee simple of the lands, and that the rent charge was bought in over 40 years ago; he entailed the manor and all the lands belonging thereto on his son for life, with divers remainders, on condition of the payment of divers great sums, but his son made default in payment, by which the entail became void and Roger Jackson, clerk, re-entered on the lands as his attorney. The purchase was probably completed shortly after the conclusion of this law-suit.

Door with grille of old hall of Hacker family (built 1625).
Door with grille of old hall of Hacker family (built 1625).

John Hacker, who came from Yeovil in the county of Somerset, had settled at East Bridgford before 1593. Francis Hacker, who purchased this property at Colston, was his eldest son. As stated by Thoroton, he built a house on his new property; this house is still standing and, except that the outside walls appear to have been re-faced, has probably undergone little, if any, alteration. It bears the date 1625, with the initials F.H. and M.H.1 A brew-house, which stood in the close to the north of the existing buildings, has been taken down otherwise the substantial farm-buildings are probably much the same as when first built. The house is now called the “Manor Farm,” but in the eighteenth century it certainly went by the name of “Hall House.” Mr. Hacker appears to have resided here for several years; his son Francis, who married Isabel Brunts in 1639, is described in the marriage licence as “of Colston Bassett, gent.” This younger Francis, as eldest son and heir, succeeded to the property on his father’s death in 1647.

In the civil wars most of the members of the Hacker family supported the Royalist cause. But Francis Hacker, jun., was on the opposite side and served in the army of the Parliament, in which he attained to the rank of colonel; perhaps he had come under the influence of his near neighbour, Colonel Hutchin­son, of Owthorpe. Those must have been stirring times in this neighbourhood, with troops of both armies constantly on the move, the rival strongholds of Newark and Nottingham Castles being at no great distance. Skirmishes were, no doubt, of frequent occurrence; one such appears to have taken place here, as shewn by an entry in the East Bridgford Registers: “ On May 11th 1643 Mr Thos Hacker was brought to he buried at East Bridgford in the family ‘vault having been slain in a fight at Colston Bassett.” This Thomas was a younger brother of Colonel Hacker. More than forty years ago the gardeners of Colston Bassett Hall while planting a new plantation near the main entrance of the hall grounds, found human remains, which are supposed to be those of soldiers slain in this fight. A reference to these troublous times may also be found in our own registers, which record the burial, on 10th June, 1645, of “John Hawley, a soldier of Shelford”; Shelford manor was a garrison on the Royalist side, and was taken by storm and burnt to the ground 27th Oct., 1645.

In January, 1649, King Charles was condemned to be beheaded. Colonel Hacker was in command of the troops who had charge of the execution, and signed the warrant to the person who actually decapitated the unfortunate monarch. After the restoration of Charles II in 1660 the Colonel was brought to trial for his share in the late king’s death, found guilty of treason and condemned to death; he was hanged at Tyburn, 19th October, 1660, and all his property was forfeited to the crown. A full account of these proceedings is given in Bailey’s “Annals of Nottinghamshire.” The king’s memory was kept by his name being inserted in the church calendar, as King Charles the Martyr from the opposite point of view Francis Hacker might be considered a martyr—each of them suffered death for doing his duty in a cause which his conscience told him was right.

The hall house estate did not long remain crown property. Apparently the king granted it to his brother James, Duke of York, who (as recorded by Thoroton) sold it on favourable terms to Rowland Hacker, brother of Francis, who had been a colonel on the Royalist side in the civil war. Later on he sold it again to John Grubham Howe, esq., of Langar. Probably Mr. Howe placed the estate under the management of a steward who lived at Hall House: at any rate Mr. Robert Twitty had children baptized here in 1667 and 1669, other children having formerly been baptized at Langar; he died at Colston Bassett in January, 1671, but was buried at Langar, being described in the register as” servant to the Worshipful John Howe, esq.”

In a deed dated 5th April, 1709, relating to this property, it is stated that the premises were heretofore purchased by Sir Edward Golding, baronet, from Richard Taylor, esq., and by him conveyed to Matthew Johnson, esq., who conveyed them to John  Ravenscroft, who has since conveyed them to his nephew James Ravenscroft. Thomas Ravenscroft was the eldest brother of Dame Mary Golding, wife of Sir Charles. Two other brothers were buried here; Francis Ravenscroft on 29th July, 1692, and Edward Ravcnscroft on 13th February, 1704. The latter, who was a member of the Inner Temple, had a certain reputation as a play-writer; his plays, though coarse and sometimes vulgar from the point of view of the present day, suited the tastes of his own times and enjoyed a considerable popularity in the court of Charles II.

The above-named Thomas Ravenscroft died in 1707 at the age of 80, and was buried at Westminster Abbey. His grave­stone bore the inscription “What I gave I have, what I spent I had, what I left I lost by not giving it,” By his will, dated 23rd September, 1707, his property at Colston Bassett was left to his nephew James, son of his brother George Ravenscroft.

James Ravenscroft, esq., of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden, appears to have been living a very fast arid gay life in London, and to have got into debt all round. His connection with the property, which probably he never visited personally, was merely a series of attempts to stave off his creditors. In 1709 he raised on it a mortgage for £1,000, and the interest on this mortgage continued as a charge on the estate until 1796. There were already various charges on the property under his uncle’s will, and he continued to borrow as long as he could. But by 1714 he had reached the end of his tether, and in that year the hall house estate, together with all his debts and liabilities, passed into the hands of Mr John Bell, citizen and haberdasher of London, who was one of the chief creditors.

A schedule of the property, in 1709, gives the names of the different closes which it included: the Cow Pasture or Cow Platt, High Close or High Field, Langar-gate Flatt. Noblesworth Meadow, Smite Hill, Brinckes Platt, Great Stony Wong, Little Stony Wong, the Bigger Harrow 14111, Long Roods, Milne Hill, and Huckerby’s Platt. The “Capital Messuage or Mancion House” and 84 acres of land were let to Mr. Francis Needham, who, in 1684, appears to have been acting as steward for Dame Mary Golding. Other tenants were Sir Edward Golding, Richard Handley, William Pritchard, James Cowlishaw, Thomas Flintham, Thomas Somner and Christopher Iliffe. In the Strafford Papers (B.M., Add. 22, 252) are rent-rolls of Captain Ravenscroft and Mr. Ravenscroft ‘s estates in Colston Bassett. These are not dated, but most probably belong to the year 1714; they were drawn up for the Earl of Strafford’s information, with a view to his possible purchase of both estates. They give the name, area and rent of each separate close. The estate described as belonging to Captain Ravenscroft was that which Mr. Bell purchased very shortly after­wards; the total rental being given as £111 l0s for 227 acres the house and homestead, and the “maulting office” rented by Mr. Needham for £6.

The owner of the other Ravenscroft estate was John Ravenscroft, of Wickham (or Wykeham), co. Lincoln, esq., another brother of Dame Mary Golding. The total area was 442ac. 2ro. 14po., and the rental £251 17s. 3d. The following names of lands occur—Colsey Hill, the Penns Hill, the Beesom meadowes, Colsey dale meadow, Beers hill call’d Little Colsey Hill, including its mere of lac. 2ro. 6po. and the homestead, Kerkby Close (in three parts, 25 acres in all), the Long Close next Roger holme furlong, the other Long Close towards Colston, Prichard’s house and homestead and the house new built, Syngsike pasture, Gallon Hill, the three Rowses platts, Little Harrow Hill, Stoney wong pingles. These names start from the extreme south end of the parish, bordering on Hickling, Long Clawson and Hose, and work northwards towards the village. It is probable that Mr. Ravenscroft had purchased the property from the Goldings; certainly some of the names mentioned belonged to Sir Edward Golding in 1656. Mr. Ravenscroft died in 1716, his age being about 79.

Mr. John Bell remained in possession of his recently purchased estate a few months only, as he died in 1715. By his will, dated 16th July, and proved 18th August, l715, his estate in Colston Bassett, though vested in trustees, virtually became the property of his widow, Mrs. Ann Bell. She surveyed her husband more than 30 years. When she made her will 4th August, 1746, she was living in the parish of St. John at Hack­ney, Middiesex. By this will, proved 19th August, 1746, she left all her real estate to her only son, John Bell. Meanwhile the tenant, Mr. Francis Needham, had died in 1717. His widow, Mrs. Mary Needham, continued to occupy the house till her death in 1727. By her will, dated 23rd October, 1727, she made bequests to her sisters Ann Cogan and Catherine Smith; her niece Ann Church; the children of Robert and Mary Needham, of Standby Grange, co. Derby; and made her sister Sarah Austin executor. Possibly she was a daughter of Ann Cogan, widow, who was buried 22nd September, 1705.

The second John Bel1 was the last owner of the house who actually lived in it, though we do not know when be came to live here—possibly after Mrs. Needham’s death. Probably he farmed the estate himself and remained a bachelor all his life. We find that John Bell, of Colston Bassett, esq., was High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1766, and that he was buried here 10th August 1774. He had made a will in 1772 and signed it, but without giving the exact date; he omitted the precaution of having his signature witnessed. Here are two extracts from the will: “My body to be buried in the most private manner giving away large quantity of dole bread, giving ten shillings each with a coat waistcoat  breeches hatt pair of strong shoes cloth of strong Yorkshire of about three shillings yard pepper and salt colour to be given to ten of the poorest men in Colston Bassett. Item, I give and devise ten shillings a piece with a gown and two strong aprons of check to ten poor women of Colston Bassett.” The estate was devised “to my sister Hyde Bell to dispose of at her decease to whom she shall think worthy of her bequest begging her not to dispose of it out of our family and if she should think fitting to leave the estates thear to one person and not put in any other incumbrance on the same.” As this will had not been witnessed, it did not stand in law as regards his landed estates, which went to his four sisters or their heirs. But it is to be hoped that the bequest quoted above was carried out, and that the ten poor men duly received their suits of strong Yorkshire cloth and the ten women their gowns and check aprons together wth their 10s. apiece.

The estate now descended to four co-heirs, as if Mr. John Bell had died intestate. These were: (1) his sister Ann, widow of George Luxford, of Wartling, Sussex, esq., to whom she was married about 1740; (2) his nephew, Rev. Samuel Bulkeley, of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, only son of his sister Jane; (3) his nephew Robert Wilson the younger, of London, gentle­man, eldest son of his sister Jemima, formerly wife of Robert Wilson, citizen and freeman of London, to whom she was married in 1738; and (4) his sister Hyde Bell, spinster. Nego­tiations were soon opened, probably with the direct object of doing away with this joint-ownership ; certainly that was their result, for when Miss Hyde Bell died in 1780 she had acquired the other shares in addition to her own. When she made her will, dated 16th April, 1777, she was living at Wanstead, Essex; when it was proved, she was described as being late of the parish of St. Mary, Stratford-be-Bow. She left her property in the County of Nottingham to trustees for the separate use, of her niece Jemima Pigou for her life; and then to go to her second son Robert Pigou, and, if he should die under the age of 21, then to her third son William Pigou. Jemima was a daughter of the above-named Robert Wilson, sen., and was married to Frederick Pigou, of Mark Lane, London, merchant. The property was held by the Pigon family for nearly a hundred years. In the Tithe Award, 1842, Robert Pigou, esq., is given as the owner, no doubt the above-mentioned Robert and probably the same as Robert Richard Pigou, of Whitchurch, Oxfordshire, who died 29th April, 1852. By the will of the last-named, his widow Susannah Pigou had a life-interest in the estate until her death on 3rd June, 1863, when the property passed to his nephew Henry Mirichin Pigou, esq., of The Castle Banwell, Somerset. He died February 1874 leaving his property at Colston Bassett to his grandson Clarence Pigou, esq., of St. Leonards-on-Sea, but charged with an annuity of £250 to his widow Elizabeth Pigou. Finally, on 17th May, 1876, Clarence Pigou sold this estate to George Baynton Davy, esq., whereby it became once more, and still remains, a part of the principal estate in the parish. Provision was made out of the purchase money, for the payment of the annuity to Mrs Elizabeth Pigou, now in her 85th year.

The mortgage for £1000, on this property, has a separate history of its own. James Ravenscroft mortgaged the property for this sum on 9th March, 1708-9, to Benjamin Poole, of the Middle Temple, esq. From him it descended to his only daughter and heiress, Catharine, who married firstly, Henry Englefield, esq., and, secondly, Edward Webbe, esq., who died in 1750. On 17th May, 1782, Sir Henry Charles Englefield, of Bolton Row, Middlesex, baronet, only son and heir of Sir Henry Englefield, late of White Knights, Berkshire, baronet, who was son and heir of Catharine Webbe, widow, granted the mortgage to Henry William Pigou, esq., a captain in the service of the Honourable United Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies, for payment made to Mary Lawson, of Bruges in the Austrian Netherlands, spinster; this was to re-pay loans made to Catharine Webbe’s late husband. Finally Frederick Pigou paid off the mortgage to the said H. W. Pigou, 14th September, 1796.

As regards the different tenants of the estate, after the death of Mr. John Bell in 1774, there are mentioned, in 1776, Thomas Crabtree, John Pilkington and one Orson. In 1798 two houses are mentioned, occupied respectively by William Crabtree and John Pilkington; the second house being the Lodge lying between Colston and Langar; but there is nothing to tell us when it was built: in this year, on 4th December, land tax on the estate was redeemed. In 1842 William and Thomas Crabtree were in occupation; they also rented the greater part of the vicar’s glebe. The registers contain a large number of entries of the Crabtree family, the successive heads of the family from father to son being John, who died 1763, Thomas 1734 to 1813, Wiillam 1764 to 1847, and Thomas 1803 to 1868. The first named may possibly have been connected with an earlier Thomas, who died in 1683; in 1660 he and his wife were presented at the Sessions as being Popish Recusants. The family left the parish about 1852, but several of them were brought back here for burial.

In 1853 the whole of this property was leased to Alexander Wheatcroft, of Bingham, farmer; the lease was for 21 years, dating from 25th March, 1852, at a yearly rent of £300. In the agreement it is recorded that a large sum of money had been expended recently by the late Robert Richard Pigou, in improvement and repair of the buildings. The lease was renewed in 1873, for a further 21 years, but was terminated in 1876, by agreement with Mr. Davy, on the same day that he completed his purchase of the property.

Subsequent tenants of this farm have been Messrs. William James, Mantle Stubbs, William Allison and William Joseph Smith, the last-named being the present occupier.

1. See the description of it in 1662 in Appendix II. T.M.B.