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Allerthorpe Hall, Allerthorpe

Joanna Barker

Allerthorpe Hall is outside the small village of Gatenby, a few miles from Burneston in North Yorkshire, close to its border with County Durham. Immediately following her marriage in 1742, Elizabeth Montagu and her husband travelled to Allerthorpe Hall with her sister Sarah, and the two women stayed there until after Christmas. She was grateful to Edward Montagu for permitting her to invite her three youngest brothers – William, John and Charles – who were at school at nearby Scorton, and whom she had not seen for five years, to visit her. [Climenson, I: 121; Letter to Mary Robinson, 24th March 1784, British Library ADD 40663, ff. 129-132]

On a visit thirty years later, she reported that several of her tenants “enquired after ye young Gentlemen who came from Scorton to Allerthorpe, I assured them Mr William Robinson was a profound Divine, & Mr Charles a sage Counsellor at Law. They rejoyced that Master Willy was happy in a good & rich Wife, & had three fine Bairns”. [Letter to Mary Robinson, 10th July 1775, British Library ADD 40663, ff. 50-54.]

Scorton Grammar School was established in 1720 as a result of a substantial legacy from Leonard Robinson, a local lawyer.  Further details have not been identified, but it seems likely he was a member of Elizabeth Montagu’s father’s family. It was a small provincial school, and Edward Montagu persuaded his father-in-law to put William and John in the more prestigious Westminster School in London in January 1743, while Charles (aged eleven) was sent into the Navy with his older brother Robert. [Letter to Duchess of Portland, 28th November 1742, and Letter from Conyers Middleton, both in Matthew Montagu ed. II:201, 226; Climenson, I: 129-130, 136, 139-140.]

In August 1744, Edward and Elizabeth Montagu, together with their young son John, known as “Punch”, travelled north to Allerthorpe, stopping at Stowe and at Newbold Verdon in Leicestershire, the home of her husband’s brother James Montagu, and passing through York. It was at Allerthorpe in September that Punch died of convulsions attributed to teething at the age of 15 months; the child was buried at Burneston, and his body transferred after his mother’s death in 1800 to her vault in Winchester Cathedral.

Following her husband’s death in 1775, Elizabeth Montagu visited her farms in Yorkshire, including Allerthorpe and Burneston. It has been assumed that Edward was the owner of these properties and left them to her in his will with the rest of his estates. However, further research suggests this may not be the case, and the properties came to her from the Robinson family, though the method of transmission is unclear. The evidence that links Allerthorpe to the Robinson family is as follows.

The Lascelles family held the manor of Allerthorpe from at least 1270. In 1590 Sir Thomas Lascelles sold it to William Robinson (1534-1616), who was twice Lord Mayor of the City of York. It passed to his son Thomas Robinson, who built Allerthorpe Hall in 1608. On Thomas’s death in 1626 he left his estate to his brother William, with the exception of the manors of Allerthorpe and Swainby, which passed to his sister Frances Harrison on the basis of an entail: the property would remain in her family for eighty years and then revert to William’s heirs. In 1688 his grandson, another Thomas Harrison, tried to break the entail, but he was evidently unsuccessful since the property reverted to the Robinson family.

There is a gap in the record between 1706, when Allerthorpe left the Harrison family, and 1743 when it appears in the name of Edward Montagu, who had married Elizabeth Robinson in July of the previous year.

According to Historic England, Rev Matthew Robinson (1628-1694), was ‘Vicar of Burneston and owner of Allerthorpe Hall’. This is certainly incorrect: Allerthorpe was owned by the Harrison family until 1706, and Matthew Robinson’s will makes no mention of Allerthorpe. He established almshouses in nearby Burneston which still exist, with a tablet above the door recording that ‘Mat. Robinson MA vic. De Burneston’ built them in 1680. Elizabeth Montagu mentioned visiting these almshouses on her visits to Yorkshire to give money to the residents in memory of the founder, whom she described as her uncle (he was in fact her great-great-uncle). She also stated that it was the fortune he left to her father that financed her family’s education, and her father’s lifestyle as a gentleman. [Letter to Edward Montagu, 28th August 1767, in Blunt, I:161; Letter to Mary Robinson, 10th July 1775, British Library ADD MS 40663, ff. 50–54] Matthew was known as the best breeder of horses in the north of England (he was even consulted about a horse by King Charles II), and left in his will the substantial sum of £20,000, sufficient to generate income of £700 per year.

The Rector married Jane Pickering and died without issue. Elizabeth Montagu, on a journey north without her husband, visited Burneston in August 1767, and stated that “her uncle, the Rev. Matthew Robinson, had been for forty-three years Vicar, and had founded almshouses there”. [Blunt, I:158-9] In fact, he was Vicar for thirty-one years from 1651-1682, when he resigned the living in favour of his nephew George Grey (1682-1711), son of his sister Frances.

The ODNB entry for Matthew Robinson Morris says that his father inherited substantial estates at Rokeby from Revd. Matthew Robinson. His Wikipedia entry similarly states that ‘His father inherited property in the neighbourhood of Rokeby from his great-uncle Matthew Robinson, Rector of Burneston’. In fact the only properties left in Matthew’s will to his brother Leonard and after his decease to his son Thomas, Matthew’s father, were at Barden and Barden Dykes, thirty-five miles from Rokeby Park. Rokeby Park was owned by William Robinson (1624-1658), elder brother of Rev Matthew Robinson of Burneston. His younger brother Leonard Robinson (1643-1696) was Elizabeth Montagu’s great-grandfather. The genealogist Samuel Egerton Brydges, who married Revd. William Robinson’s daughter Mary, wrote in his unfinished biography of Matthew Robinson Morris, 2nd Lord Rokeby, that he was born in York, ‘in which county (about Burniston and Allerthorpe) were his paternal estates; a property of which he did not come into possession till the death of his father in 1778’.

There have been repeated assertions that Edward Montagu was the owner of the Yorkshire estates. Emily Climenson described Allerthorpe as ‘Mr Montagu’s Yorkshire seat’, and stated that he ‘owned a good estate at Allerthorpe and another near Rokeby’. [Climenson, I:111-112, p. 120] Debrett’s Peerage of 1790 and 1809 said that Elizabeth Robinson married ‘Edward Montagu esq. of Allerthorpe’.

More significantly, in a letter to her cousin Grace Freind sent from Allerthorpe, the newly-married Elizabeth Montagu wrote, “Here we are situated in a fine country, and Mr Montagu has the pleasure calling many hundred pounds a year about his house his own, without any person’s property interfering with it: I think it is the prettiest estate, and in the best order I ever saw”. [Letter to Grace Freind, 25th August 1742, in Climenson I: 122-123.]  In the same letter she added that “Mr Montagu has an estate near Rokeby, from whence I intend to visit Sir Thomas Robinson’s fine park of which I hear great praising”. In a later letter to her sister-in-law Mary Robinson, Elizabeth Montagu described her visit to Burneston and Allerthorpe for the first time after her husband’s death, saying, ‘As Mr Montagu had been always a very good Landlord, I thought it right to show the good people they would have a kind Landlady’. [Letter to Mary Robinson, 10th July 1775, British Library ADD 40663, ff. 50-54.]

Edward Montagu made his will on 28th July 1752. This was ten years after his marriage, when his wife was 34 years old and potentially capable of bearing further children, and it made complex provisions for legacies to his putative sons and their remoter male issue. It begins with the statement ‘I, Edward Montagu, of Allerthorpe in the County of York’, which implies that Allerthorpe was his own property. However, the 14-page document, which refers in detail to his other estates at Eryholme, Sandleford and Hanover Square, makes no reference to the disposition of Allerthorpe. There are six codicils to the will dating from 1761 to 1774, which are designed primarily to take account of further properties that he had acquired in and around East Denton in Northumberland. In the codicil dated 1st October 1765 he described himself as ‘Edward Montagu of Hill Street in the Parish of St George’s Hanover Square’, and proceeded to recite the details of his real estate at Denton, Hindley, Lemmington, Throckley, Jarrow,  Barnston, Chester-le-Street, Crossbank and Newcastle ‘or elsewhere in the counties of Northumberland and Durham and the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne’, all of which are left to his ‘dear wife’. There is no mention of Allerthorpe or any other properties in Yorkshire.

One possible explanation is that Matthew Robinson settled the Yorkshire properties on his daughter on her marriage, and her husband consequently had use of them and would own them if she predeceased him, but they would revert to her if she was widowed. However, in a letter to Mary Robinson she said that she had never received more than a thousand pounds from her family. [Letter to Mary Robinson, 21st February 1778, British Library ADD MS 40663, ff. 73–74.] Samuel Egerton Brydges’ statement that Allerthorpe and Burneston descended to her eldest brother Matthew Robinson Morris is certainly mistaken.

Allerthorpe Hall passed from Elizabeth Montagu to her nephew Matthew Montagu with the rest of her estate, and then successively to Matthew’s sons Edward and Henry, the 5th and 6th Barons Rokeby. The next owner was Henry’s daughter Harriet Lydia, who married the 4th Earl of Portarlington. On her death in 1904, she left it to Mary Lydia, only daughter of her second son, Montagu Francis Beauchamp Seymour Dawson-Damer.  Mary Lydia died in 1969 at the age of 71; her only son emigrated to Australia and predeceased her in 1940. None of these family members appears to have occupied the Hall at any time, so it was presumably let to tenants. Today Allerthorpe Hall is in private hands but is not occupied by the owner and is let out.

The Burneston Almshouses are unoccupied and in a poor state of repair, but money left by its founder continues to be administered by the trustees of the Matthew Robinson Trust for the benefit of almshouse residents, local schools and those who are ‘in need, hardship or distress’.

Scorton Grammar School continued in operation until 1991: its headmaster from 1949-1958 was C F Hale, father of Lady Hale, the first female president of the UK’s Supreme Court. It was then sold for redevelopment; the main building was converted into flats and an estate of 85 houses built in the grounds.


Please note that all dates and location information are provisional, initially taken from the library and archive catalogues. As our section editors continue to work through the material we will update our database and the changes will be reflected across the edition.