Garstang’s ‘Royal’ connection

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Several years ago the minister of Garstang United Reformed Church, asked Jessie Cole and I if we would write the history of the church.

The church was formerly known as the Congregational chapel/church and before that the Independent chapel.

I am writing the early history c1777–1900, and Jessie is writing the sequel, i.e. 1900 onwards. Undertaking my research I soon came across the Walpole–Keppels as the history of the chapel, the town and the Walpole–Keppels are intertwined. Anyone who has researched local history will know how easy it is to get side-tracked and the Walpole–Keppels proved to be a wide diversion down which I wandered.

The Independent chapel was founded c1777 on land originally taken on a 60 year lease from the Lord of the Manor of Garstang, Sir Edward Walpole. He had purchased the Manor of Garstang from the Crown by authority of an Act of Parliament in 1750.

He was the second son of Sir Robert Walpole, generally regarded as Britain’s first prime minister, and brother of Horatio (Horace) Walpole, the author. Edward followed his father into politics and had a distinguished career.

He was Member of Parliament for various places, Secretary to the Treasury, Chief Secretary for Ireland and Clerk of the Pells. [The Clerk of the Pells was an officer of the Exchequer, whose duty it was to make entries on the pelts or parchment rolls.] In 1753 he was made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath.

Edward never married, although he very much wanted to. He fell in love with a milliner’s assistant, Dorothy Clement, daughter of Hammond Clement, a postmaster from Darlington, County Durham. His father disapproved and threatened to disinherit him should he marry the girl; she came with no title or dowry. Nevertheless, Edward and Dorothy lived together at his home in Pall Mall and she bore him three daughters, Laura, Maria and Charlotte, and a son. Unfortunately Dorothy died soon after the birth of their youngest child. Edward then devoted himself to the upbringing of their children. They were well educated, well spoken and well dressed, and were brought up, not as Clements, but as Walpoles.

The son, also called Edward, entered the army and died unmarried in his early thirties.

Despite the drawback of their illegitimacy the girls made advantageous marriages. The eldest, Laura, married the Revd Frederick Keppel, a canon of St George’s chapel, Windsor, and the future Bishop of Exeter.

He was the youngest son of the 2nd Earl of Albemarle, their family seat Lexham Hall, Norfolk. Frederick’s grandfather, Arnold Joost van Keppel, a nobleman, had come over from Holland with William III and Mary.

William conferred on him the title Earl of Albemarle, a title that had become extinct a few years previously.

The girls’ uncle Horace, who never married, was devoted to his nieces and thought of them as his own. He had a friend, James, 2nd Earl of Waldegrave, Governor of the Privy Purse to his Majesty King George II.

James was the King’s friend and advisor and was, in effect, the power behind the throne. Horace introduced James, aged 43, to Maria, aged 22, and they were married soon afterwards.

It was a happy marriage despite the difference in age. Maria bore him three daughters, but unfortunately after four years she was widowed; James died of smallpox.

After a suitable period of mourning Maria married His Royal Highness Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, a brother of King George III.

This marriage enraged the King as his brother had married an illegitimate commoner and was, with the subsequent marriage of another of his brothers, the Duke of Cumberland, to another commoner, the cause of the passing of the Royal Marriage Act 1772.

This Act required all descendants of King George II to seek the Sovereign’s approval before marriage. Maria died in 1807 and was buried with her second husband in St George’s chapel, Windsor. Their vault is close by the tombs of Henry VIII and Charles I.

Edward’s youngest daughter, Charlotte, married Lord Huntingtower, the future Earl of Dysart. There was no issue from this marriage.

When Sir Edward died his daughter Laura was already a widow. Her husband, Bishop Frederick Keppel, had died aged 49 in 1777 (the year Garstang Independent chapel was founded). Edward died a wealthy man and left a very detailed will.

He was generous with his friends and servants leaving each an annuity, or yearly income, for life.

To three members of the Clement family, Dorothy’s mother Margaret, her sister Ann and a Jane Clement, who were now living in Middlesex in houses owned by him, he left annuities; one of these was a yearly income of £400 for life. [Perhaps years earlier some of the Clement family had relocated from County Durham to Middlesex to help him bring up his children.]

His house and land at Isleworth, Middlesex, later called Laura Villa, he left to Laura and her heirs forever, i.e. to Laura outright. He left property in Middlesex, Lincolnshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

His Manors of Garstang in Lancashire and Newbiggin in Lonsdale, Westmoreland, he entailed through his daughter, Laura, down to his great-grandsons, going through the male line as far as possible. That is, his Manors were settled on persons in succession, none of whom could dispose of them.

They were, however, entitled to the rents and privileges that went with the Manors. Land Tax Assessments for 1785, the year after Sir Edward’s death, show the Honourable Laura Keppel, the proprietor of Garstang.

She received the rents, but not the Land Tax, that was paid to the government.

Laura died in 1813. Her will gives the impression she was still mourning her husband who had died 36 years earlier.

She wished to be buried in St George’s chapel, Windsor, in the same vault and as close as possible to her ‘most revered and excellent husband, the Honourable and Right Reverend Frederick Keppel, late Lord Bishop of Exeter and Dean of Windsor’.

A black name plate was to be put on her coffin and it was to be draped in black velvet. Her wedding ring was to remain on her finger and the locket she always wore around her neck containing her late husband’s hair was to remain there. She requested her son Frederick to add the surname Walpole to that of Keppel so that in future he would be known as Mr Frederick Walpole Keppel and that his sons would do the same.

The coat of arms of Bishop Keppel was three scallop shells on a red background – the sign of a Christian pilgrimage. Laura requested her son and his sons to quarter the Keppel coat of arms with that of Walpole.

Laura owned several properties which she left to family members. The Manor of Garstang was not included as that had been entailed by her father and was now settled on her son, Frederick Walpole Keppel. She left shares in the Lancaster canal to her two daughters and a granddaughter.

The burial of Laura and Maria in St George’s chapel, Windsor, is of interest. Two illegitimate daughters of a milliner’s assistant were buried amongst Royalty; the Queen Mother joining them in 2002.

Laura’s son, Frederick Walpole Keppel Snr had three sons: Frederick Walpole Keppel Jnr, Colonel Edward George Walpole Keppel and the Revd William Arnold Walpole Keppel. The majority of Keppel men were either military men or men of the cloth. The Garstang Estate was settled on Frederick Walpole Keppel Jnr in 1830 on the death of his father.

He had a survey and valuation of the Garstang Estate carried out in 1840. The rental for the Independent chapel was £15 per annum and the building was described as, ‘a stone and slate building occupied as an Independent chapel’.

Close by the chapel stood a range of cottages: one, near the pound, was built of mud and thatch, whilst four others, built of stone and thatch, were described as being in a state of miserable repair. [All that remains of the pound, or pinfold, where stray cattle were impounded is a traffic roundabout on which a few trees grow.] Thirteen public houses were listed. Garstang was said to have more pubs than any other town in the north of England.

In 1835, three years after Joseph Livesey founded a Temperance movement in nearby Preston, there was a Temperance Hotel in Garstang. It is recorded that in 1835 the Preston district of the Congregational Union held a meeting at the Temperance Hotel, Garstang.

Those representing Garstang chapel were: Dr William Bell and Messrs J Jowitt, W Standing and J Beasley. The whereabouts of this hotel is unknown, nor was it listed on the 1840 valuation.

The Keppels employed men to work on the estate. A wages book for the 1850s and 1860s lists the jobs men did and gives an insight into the dilapidated state of Garstang. A few men worked full time, but most worked when required.

James Driver was a full time odd job man, clearing drains, repairing fences, dressing straw for thatching, carting sand from the river, mixing lime, collecting timber from Shroggs wood, plus other jobs. He put down foundations for a stable at Croziers, helped a stone mason in Greenhow’s yard, cleared drains at the Eagle and Child, and worked on the old candle shop.

In 1857 he and James Bibby pulled down an old ale house [no name given]. Almost every week a cottage was being either repaired, re-thatched or having its drains cleared.

In 1858 John Blacow spent four days repairing the thatch on the cottages in Cabbage Row. In the 1850s the average wage was 2s.3d. per day, rising to 2s.6d. in the 1860s. Henry Sawyer, stone mason, was regarded as a skilled craftsman. He was paid more than other men, 4s.0d. per day in the 1850s rising to 4s.6d. in the 1860s. He worked on the Golden Ball inn and laid flags in the street. In 1869 he spent six days repairing the kitchen floor at the Royal Oak.

An example of his handiwork can be seen in the walls he built, and still exist, going around two sides of the graveyard at the United Reformed Church.

A few years later, in 1872, Anthony Hewitson visited Garstang and described it as:

A most irregular, rickety, tumble-down and antiquated town… The streets are now paved, but unless you wear shoe soles two inches thick it is torture to walk down them…The inhabitants are frugal, long-lived and primitive in their habits.

In the Spring of 1867 an advertisement appeared in a London journal stating that the Freehold Estate of the Lordship of Garstang was to be sold by auction in London the following June.

It was described as ‘An estate comprising 422 acres of land with the entire town of Garstang and the fishing of the River Wyre’. Included in the sale were 11 hotels and inns, and 40 shops.

The estate produced an annual rental of £2707 15s. 3d. The Manor had in 1859 passed to the Revd William Arnold Walpole Keppel, Rector of Haynford, Norfolk, and Registrar of the Diocese of Exeter. He was a great-grandson of Sir Edward Walpole.

In order to understand why he put the Manor of Garstang up for sale it is necessary to go back to the will of his father Frederick Walpole Keppel Snr who died in 1830 leaving three sons aged 26, 31 and 33, none of whom were married at the time he made his will.

The will stated Garstang should pass to each of his three sons, ‘successively according to their seniority’, echoing the words of his grandfather’s will. His eldest son, Frederick Walpole Keppel Jnr went on to have two daughters but no sons.

His second son, Edward George Walpole Keppel, died unmarried without issue. His youngest son, Revd William Arnold Walpole Keppel, had three sons and one daughter.

Frederick Walpole Keppel Jnr died in 1858 when his two daughters, Fanny and Louisa, were minors aged eight and nine, respectively.

In order to provide for them it was a condition of his will that they should each receive £15,000 on reaching their majority of 21 years, or on marriage if younger, provided it was with the consent of their guardians.

The money was to be raised from the Garstang Estate. The Manor of Garstang then passed to Colonel Edward George Walpole Keppel who survived his brother by only eleven months, and then to the Revd William Arnold Walpole Keppel.

As the time drew near for him to settle £15,000 on each of his nieces it was necessary for him to raise the capital.

Since his elder brother’s will stated the money was to be raised from the Garstang Estate and his great-grandfather, Edward Walpole, had entailed the Manor of Garstang only as far as his great-grandsons he was free to sell.

Prior to the sale Dr William Bell, secretary of the Independent chapel, was asked by chapel members to approach the agents acting for the estate with a view to purchasing privately the site on which the chapel stood.

A conveyance dated 26 April 1867 transferred the freehold from the Revd W A W Keppel to Dr Bell and others for £100. Shortly afterwards an article appeared in the Preston Guardian newspaper:

The estate has already been broken into by the sale of the Independent chapel to the members and congregation who propose to take off the roof and renovate the building. The building has become a sort of tumbledown affair, the roof being in such a condition it is scarcely safe to assemble beneath it…

The chapel trustees and members are the first freeholders in the whole of Garstang.

On 19 June 1867 the ‘Lordship of Garstang’ was put up for auction. Bidding reached £78,000, but this was below the reserve price. It was then divided into lots, but again the reserve price was not met, so the estate was withdrawn from sale. There was dismay amongst the inhabitants of the town the following month when many rents were increased by up to 30% and new conditions imposed on many tenants in an attempt to increase the rental income and make it more attractive to potential buyers.

Following the auction some properties were sold privately. A document in the Lancashire Record Office states settlement was made in September 1871 after both girls had reached their majority, the Revd W A W Keppel having raised the money by sale of part of the Garstang Estate and mortgaging other parts.

By 1872 the graveyard at the Independent chapel, now called the Congregational chapel, was full and the trustees wished to purchase a plot of land at the rear from the Keppel Estate.

The Keppels, like Sir Edward Walpole before them, were absentee landlords and administered their estate through an agent. An approach was made to the agent at the time, Mr Thynne, and land from the field at the rear was offered at 5s. 0d. per square yard. The trustees considered this overpriced and offered half, i.e. 2s. 6d. per square yard, and this was accepted.

The area of land was 268 square yards. Jonathan Jowitt Thomas, a chemist of Garstang, was appointed chairman of the new burial ground, with William Raby of Bonds Fold and John Preston of Kiln Trees, Cabus, forming a committee. Purchase of the land, lime, carting of materials and Henry Sawyer’s account for building a wall to enclose the land came to a total of £66 2s. 3d.

The Revd William Arnold Walpole Keppel, had three sons all of whom became lieutenant colonels. The Revd died in 1884 aged 81. His eldest son, Frederick Charles, had predeceased him; he was unmarried and without issue. His second son, William Henry Augustus, then acceded to all the rights and privileges of the Manor of Garstang.

He died in 1889 aged 44, just five years after his father. He was succeeded by his only son, 13 year old Bertram William Arnold Keppel. He joined the army and rose to the rank of Major.

In 1897 the trustees of the Congregational chapel, approached Mr Thynne, Major Keppel’s agent, with a view to purchasing a plot on the east side of the chapel on which to build a Sunday school and house for a caretaker.

The plot of land was 16 yards (frontage) by 35 yards deep. The price agreed was £75 for the freehold. This was the last time the chapel had any dealings with the Keppels. The Sunday school with caretaker’s cottage was built in 1904.

Ever since the attempt to sell the Manor of Garstang in 1867, individual properties had been sold one by one and the estate had decreased in size.

In 1919 Major Keppel decided to sell off the remaining properties and these were advertised to be sold by auction over a two day period in November.

However, prior to the sale the majority of tenants met with Major Keppel’s agents and solicitors, and purchased their properties privately. The market hall was purchased by the parish council.

Messrs E G Hothersall and sons offered the remaining properties for sale by auction in the Garstang Institute (formerly the Roman Catholic chapel). The auction took less than a day and details were published in the Preston Guardian, e.g. two dwelling houses in Bridge Street, occupied by Lancashire Constabulary £450; two cottages situated in Church Street, known as Cabbage Row £120 [the site of the cottages now forms part of the car park of St Thomas’s church]; cottage and outbuildings with garden in High Street occupied by Mr Joseph Grayson, yearly rental £10 5s. 0d., £170 [this was one of the cottages demolished to make way for a supermarket – now the Co-op]. There were also several plots of land off Kettle Lane.

At the conclusion of the sale Major Keppel offered a triangular plantation at the junction of Back Lane and Croston Weind, formerly the pound or pinfold, to the local council as a gift. Mr R Thornton, chairman of the council, thanked Major Keppel for his generosity. Major Keppel then bade his former tenants farewell, and expressed the hope they would meet again on some future occasion. This was the end of the 169 year association between Garstang and the Walpole–Keppels.

Items of interest:

Between 1920 and 1930 Kettle lane began to be known as Kepple lane, changing the letter t into p, but unfortunately its spelling is not quite the same as that of Garstang’s previous owners.

William Waldegrave, now Lord Waldegrave, a minister in both Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s governments is descended from Sir Edward Walpole. When James, 2nd Earl of Waldegrave died he had three daughters but no sons, so the title passed to his brother, John. John’s eldest son, George, 4th Earl of Waldegrave married his cousin, Elizabeth Laura Waldegrave, eldest daughter of Maria (nee Walpole) and James. Elizabeth Laura became Countess of Waldegrave, just as her mother had done, and William, Lord Waldegrave is descended from them. He is the youngest son of the 12th Earl of Waldegrave and his brother is the 13th Earl. Sir Edward Walpole is his 5 x great grandfather.

Another person descended from Sir Edward Walpole is Prince William, a probable future King of England. He is descended from Anna Horatia Waldegrave, the youngest daughter of Maria (nee Walpole) and James, 2nd Earl of Waldegrave. An abbreviated family tree:

Sir Edward Walpole -> Maria Waldegrave (nee Walpole) -> Anna Horatia Seymour (nee Waldegrave) -> Horace Beauchamp Seymour -> Adelaide Horatia Elizabeth Spencer (nee Seymour), wife of 4th Earl Spencer -> Charles Robert Spencer, 6th Earl Spencer -> Albert Edward John Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer -> Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, married Frances Ruth Burke Roche -> Diana Frances (nee Spencer) married Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor -> William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor (Prince William born 1982). Family historians will work out that Sir Edward Walpole is the 7 x great grandfather of Prince William. I wonder if Prince William knows one of his ancestors once owned Garstang?