Bretton Hall - Family and Estate
from 1158 - 1949
Introduction by Richard Flowerday (Guide at YSP and BEd student 1966- 1970)
(Click on images to enlarge)
This timeline is intended to highlight the main events in the history of the Bretton family and estate for almost 700 years before the opening of the College by the West Riding in 1949. This rich and varied history perhaps helps explain why Bretton was, and remains, a very special place. In all this time only one family lived there albeit connected by marriage when there were no male heirs. This is a family that produced the mother of a Queen, have a saint amongst their numbers and were High Sheriff of Yorkshire for some three hundred years. Perhaps as important as these facts is the creation by the family of a special home and grounds that have come to mean so much to all those who were students at Bretton during its time as a college. I have not attempted to provide a comprehensive time line but one which will be of particular interest to those of us who came to know Bretton for a special period of our lives.
I have to thank Leonard Bartle for making archive material available and for the use of some Heritage Team material at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This team provides a range of tours to open up the history of the park and family. Details can be found on YSP website - ysp.org.uk/heritage.
Images of members of the Wentworth and Beaumont families have been kindly supplied by Lord Allendale.
Richard Flowerday. April, 2020
1158 - The Manor of West Bretton was taken by Adam de Bretton when he came to live near Huddersfield.
1251 - Hugh de Bretton became Lord of the Manor of West Breton and the last de Bretton to hold this title as he had no male heirs.
1261 - Thomas de Dronsfield married Hugh de Bretton’s daughter and settled in the area.
1379 - John de Dronsfield was listed as the Lord of the Manor of West Bretton and lived in Villa de Bretton. This is the first mention of a house on the Bretton estate.
1385 - John de Dronsfield built a Chapel of Ease dedicated to St Bartholomew. This was on a site to the south of the present bottom lake.
1390-1399 - William de Dronsfield was employed in the service of Henry Bolinbroke. William was knighted when Bolinbroke became King Henry iv in 1399.
1401-1406 - Sir William Dronsfield was appointed to the position of High Sheriff of Yorkshire and became a member of parliament.
1407 - Sir William Dronsfield died with no heir. His estate passed to his sister Agnes who was married to John Wentworth of South Elmsal
1430 - Richard Wentworth inherited the Bretton estate from his mother, Agnes Dronsfield. He was her third son.
(It is interesting to note that Agnes Dronsfield's second son, Roger, had a daughter Margery who was mother to Jane Seymour - wife of Henry Viii.)
1488 - Richard Wentworth supported Richard lll, but was pardoned by Henry Vll.
1533 - Matthew Wentworth was created Knight Marshal of the Royal Household.
(The Knight Marshal is a former office in the British Royal Household, established by King Henry lll in 1236.)
1541 - A special bed and bedroom were set up in Bretton Hall for an expected visit of King Henry viii. (It is not known whether the King's visit took place.)
Contents of this room are on show at Temple Newsam House in Leeds.
For further information and images of the Henry VIII Parlour Click Here
1594-98 - Matthew Wentworth, leading JP for the area, had to deal with his mother, niece and her husband who were all leading recusant catholics in Yorkshire. His mother recanted but his niece and husband were tried in York and sentenced to death. They are among the English Martyrs canonised by Pope John Paul ll.
1641-1651 - Thomas Wentworth supported Charles l at battles with the Scots and through the Civil war. He was imprisoned by Cromwell for a year.
1660 - At the Restoration, in 1660, Thomas was knighted by Charles ll.
1664 - Sir Thomas Wentworth was elevated to the peerage and became the first Baronet Wentworth.
1685 - Grace Countess Eglinton ( wife to Sir Thomas until his death in 1675) gave the well at the south side of the bottom lake for use of estate workers.
The Countess is buried at Silkstone Church with Sir Thomas in a very impressive tomb in the Bretton side chapel.
For further information and images: Click Here
1706 - Sir William Wentworth inherited the Bretton Estate at the age of 19 and became the 4th Baronet Wentworth.
He was the first of four generations to develop Bretton Hall and estate as we know it today.
1709-12 - Sir William went on a Grand Tour of Europe and became a life-long friend of Lord Burlington and Patron to William Kent. Lord Burlington introduced Sir William to the new style of Palladian Architecture.
This was a significant and subsequently fortuitous marriage as the Blacketts of Northumberland were very wealthy owners of vast estates. At one time, the Blackett mines yielded one seventh of the total lead ore produced in the United Kingdom.
1720 - William's younger brother was married to Elizabeth Lord and they lived in Surrey. Their home was known as Wentworth’s Waste. The site of their home has become the world famous Wentworth Golf course.
1720 - The second timber-built house at Bretton was destroyed by fire.
Sir William arranged to build a new house of stone in the Palladian style.
This proposed new mansion was the third-known family home to be built on the Bretton estate.
It was one of the earliest group of Palladian-style structures in the country, and formed the first section of the Bretton buildings that we know so well today.
1744 - Sir William had the present Estate Chapel built and dedicated it to St Bartholomew as had been the case for the first chapel in 1385.
Outside of the chapel, underneath the east window, a small fenced-off area of the ground was reserved for the burials of future Wentworth (and subsequently Beaumont) family members rather than Silkstone Church which had been the case from 1407 until this date.
1763 - Sir William Wentworth died.
He was the first of ten former inhabitants of Bretton Hall to be buried in the chapel graveyard.
1764 - Sir Thomas started to landscape Bretton Park under the direction of Richard Woods of Chertsy, a lesser-known Capability Brown.
1765 - Sir Thomas was appointed High Sheriff of Yorkshire by Marquis of Rockingham, Prime Minister, who was also Thomas's cousin ( Wentworth Woodhouse branch of the family).
1766 - Sir Thomas was visited by another cousin - John Wentworth - before the latter went out to be Royal Governor of New Hampshire in America. John named his American timber plantations 'Bretton Woods'.
1767 - Sir Thomas went to the Quarter Sessions in Rotherham to remove all the 'rights of way' from the Bretton Estate. This was granted to all but the present right of way that goes from Bretton village across Cascade Bridge to High Hoyland, which made way for the development of the landscaping of the grounds.
1770 - The upper lake was completed, including five islands and a boathouse at the far west perimeter. In the same year work began on the construction of the lower lake.
(Additionally - there is evidence of the existence of another boathouse, close to the Cascade Bridge, on the north side of the upper lake, with two willow trees allegedly "guarding" access. All that exists now is a suggestion of foundation stones and two plinths, on which stood statues of Adam and Eve, which once overlooked the entrance to the boathouse from the shore. )
1777 - Inheritance of Blackett Estates
As a consequence of Sir Thomas Wentworth's father having married Diana Blackett of Northumberland, the considerable estates of the Blackett dynasty were inherited by Sir Thomas in 1777.
An eccentric requirement of the bequest was that Sir Thomas Wentworth change his surname to "Blackett".
Sir Thomas complied with the requirement and thereafter became known as Sir Thomas Wentworth Blackett.
His children, however, all retained the surname "Wentworth".
1782 - Lower lake completed.
1786 - On 28th July Diana Wentworth married Colonel Thomas Richard Beaumont.
1789/90 - Sir Thomas Wentworth Blackett commissioned William Lindley to extend the office block and build a new kitchen wing at right angles to the main building.
1792 - This was the beginning of the Beaumont dynasty, which continues to exist in the 21st century.
In her marriage to Col. Thomas Richard Beaumont, Diana was the dominant partner. After her inheritance, she added extensively to the house and also made great changes to the grounds. Diana Beaumont was a talented and successful horticulturist, and had exotic plants brought from all around the world.
1805 - Diana commissioned William Atkinson to add the Portico entrance and bow end to the mansion.
1814 - Diana nearly doubled the size of the house from Pillar Hall to the west, adding an ante-room, library, music room and other reception rooms, together with all the corresponding rooms upstairs that formed nursery accommodation for her family of eight children. Work was carried out by Jeffery Wyatt.
1817 - Diana had Camellia House built and the “far famed domed conservatory”. This latter was the first such glass house of its kind in the country and was built at a cost of £15,000. It was visited by, amongst others, Paxton, on behalf of the Chatsworth estate.
Diana also added the shell grotto and Summer House or Greek Temple round the upper lake. There was also a bath house on the south side of the upper lake which no longer exists.
1826 - On 1st July Thomas Wentworth Beaumont (son of Diana and Thomas Richard Beaumont) fought a duel on Bamburgh Sands, Northumberland, with his political enemy, John George Lambton (later 1st Earl of Durham). Neither man was injured.
For more details of the duel, Click Here
1831 - Thomas Wentworth Beaumont inherited from his mother
He was the fourth generation of the family to extend the house. He also added most of the ha-has to the grounds.
1832 - Thomas arranged for a three-days auction at Bretton to clear out all the memories of his mother Diana , with whom he did not get on. The “far famed domed conservatory” was sold for a mere £546. (The conservatory originally cost Diana Beaumont £15,000 )
On the third day Paxton bought the majority of the plants for the Chatsworth estate.
1836 - Thomas added the Orangery (needlework / textile room). He used the only non-Yorkshire architect to work on the house in the person of George Basevi from London.
Basevi was employed for all three of Thomas Wentworth's building projects.
1840 - A new Dining Room (staff common room) was built.
1841 - A monumental chimney piece weighing three and a half tons was sent from Basevi’s studio to Bretton for installation in the new dining room.
(In recent times, Rushbonds valued this feature at almost £1 million.)
1842 - A new Office Block was constructed, which extended the main building northwards.
1848 - Death of Thomas Wentworth Beaumont
1848 - Wentworth Blackett Beaumont inherited from his father. Although he and his wife enjoyed Bretton for the remainder of the century, they added nothing of significance to the house or grounds.
They completed the building of gatehouses at the extremes of the private estate. By this time it was 500 acres which is the size of the Yorkshire Sculpture park. Estate House was also added at this time. It was in fact Estate Office as the estate manager had a much more impressive house on the other side of the main road which remains to this day.
1904 - Wentworth Blackett Beaumont became 1st Baron Allendale.
1907 - Wentworth Canning Blackett Beaumont inherited from his father and became the 2nd Baron Allendale. By this time the family were not living at Bretton other than for Doncaster Races and a few other such meetings.
1911 - Wentworth Canning Blackett Beaumont was awarded the title of 1st Viscount Allendale.
He selected the title from the Allendale village on the family's Northumberland Estate.
In Celtic, the word 'Allendale' means 'Valley of the Shining Water'.
The Beaumont families now live at Bywell House in Northumberland and continue to use the title of 'Viscount'
1912 - Wentworth Canning Blackett Beaumont undertook an elaborate restoration at Bretton Hall.
1923 - Wentworth Henry Canning Beaumont succeeded his father and became the 2nd Viscount Allendale.
1927 - In this year, during the visit of the future Princess Royal, who was the daughter of King George V, a fire broke out at Bretton Hall during the evening.
Princess Mary played a major role in rescuing the Allendale's sleeping children and assisting in the managemnt of the fire.
For more information about the fire: Click Here
1935 Farms and small plots of land belonging to the Bretton estate started to be sold. This was the start of a process which was to see the West Riding buying the Hall and Stable Block and 260 aces of land to make into Bretton Teacher training College 1947/8. The final sale of the family’s holdings from the Bretton estate, however, was much later - in 1958.
1939-47 Bretton Hall was occupied by a unit of the Royal Artillery 39th Signals Training Regiment.
The Beaumont family moved to Bywell Hall, their home in Northumberland.
1942 - Wentworth Hubert Charles Beaumont (the future 3rd Viscount Allendale) was shot down after flying 70 spitfire missions. He spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft 3 in Sagan Poland. Because of the injury to his legs he acted as escape office in this camp for the rest of the war.
1946 - The first official viewing and suggestion that the West Riding should buy Bretton Hall to create a training college for men with a musical bias took place. The West Riding Chief Education officer asked the Ministry of Education for approval to establish a teacher training college for Art, Drama and Music and the possibility of establishing a residential Special school.
1947 - Bretton Hall was used by the West Riding Architects department. Viscount Allendale directed that there be a sale of the family’s remaining furniture and effects from Bretton.
1948 - The West Riding of Yorkshire purchased Bretton Hall , the lodges and lakes, with 260 acres of land for £34,023. A further £101,000 was spent by the West Riding on alterations and adaptations.
Thus ended 700 years of occupation of the estate by one family, connected by marriage, from the de Bretton, Dronsfield, Wentworth and Beaumont family lines. None of them changed the estate's original name of 'Bretton'.
1949 - Mr J. F. Friend was appointed as the first Principal.
The college opened on 25th September with the Principal, six tutors and 56 students (26 women and 30 men).