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THE BRISTOWES AT TWYFORD
1571 ~ 1856

The Bristowe family's association with Twyford started in Tudor times and lasted almost 300 years. In 1571 lands there were bought from the Earl of Shrewsbury by the brothers Ellis and William, sons of John Bristowe of Beesthorpe. John's eldest son, also named John, was clearly in line to inherit Beesthorpe and we must assume that Ellis and William were sufficiently ambitious to become landowners themselves as to decide to venture forth to 'pastures new' through acquiring the holdings at Twyford. This meant their moving away from Nottinghamshire and going down to the area just south of Derby, some 45 miles from Beesthorpe.

William subsequently became the sole owner of the lands at Twyford and I am not aware of the reason for this. It could well have been that Ellis died not long after the acquisition of the new property because, although he was certainly alive two years later, I have nothing to show what became of him after 1573.

William, who married Anne Evratt, was able to enjoy some 26 years of ownership of his new domain, purchasing more land at Twyford in 1585. He died in 1597. From his Will, in which his occupation is given as husbandman (farmer), we see that his surname was spelt Bristoe at that time. His Probate Inventory shows that he lived in a small house with two rooms up and two down. His possessions included quite a small number of cattle, though there were also "3 mares one fole and one colt". We do not know the full extent of his property but, by way of arable land, mention is made of only a single field under cultivation.

William had three children, the eldest of whom was his only son Thomas, born circa 1572, who inherited the property and continued farming, acquiring more land in the process. He married Elizabeth Warde of Steynston (Stenson, 1 mile north of Twyford) and they had three sons and four daughters. In 1619 Thomas died in a house with three ground floor rooms but only one chamber above. Under his Will, showing the spelling of the surname now as Bristow, he bequeathed "my lands both what I have by inheritance & by mine owne purchas" to his eldest son William, descending to his next son Richard "if the sayd William die without issue", and similarly to his third son Simon "for lack of issue of the sayd Richard".

Thomas's Inventory shows an increase in both household possessions and farm stock & equipment, compared with the items left by his father. In addition to cattle, the animals included a few sheep and pigs. Also we see that the river was part of Thomas's life in that he left "2 old boates one worne tramell nett with ... his engines of fishing belonging to the water".

It must be assumed that both Simon's elder brothers William and Richard did indeed die without issue because the next member of the family about whom considerable information is available is Simon Bristowe (spelt with an 'e' in his Will, though the spelling Bristow continued to be in common use). However, it remains a mystery to me what did in fact happen with the three brothers because Simon was aged only 4 when his father died in 1619 and, while Richard possibly died young, we know that William did not do so until 1645.

Simon, who was born in 1615 and who married Anne Orme of Burnaston (3.5 miles north-west of Twyford), was a combatant in the Civil War. He fought on the side of Parliament, and from the Twyford Church Guide we learn that he killed a Royalist soldier at Tutbury Castle, in consequence of which the soldiers swore vengeance. Thus the Church Guide goes on to refer to the records that relate that when Simon's brother William died in 1645 "his manservant buried him privately at night in Twyford churchyard, and levelled the ground ... as the King's army ... had threatened ... to come and burn his body".

With Simon, who died in 1681 at the age of 66, one clearly sees a marked improvement in the Bristowe family fortunes. He died in Twyford Hall which he had leased from Mr. Harpur for 99 years or three lives from 1670. This security of tenure enabled him to rebuild the house. At the time of his death it cannot have had the seven hearths on which Mrs. Huband had been taxed in 1662 but it now had three downstairs rooms and the buttery and three upstairs rooms; the top floor had been built but not yet brought into use.

The advance in Simon's status is apparent from his being described in his Will as 'yeoman', this term roughly signifying a man holding and farming a small landed estate. According to Simon's Inventory there were 14 acres under cultivation with various cereal crops and "Peese". The livestock now included 55 sheep. There was also some poultry in the form of "Henns Cockes & turkeys"; also "Bees in the Garden". Boats feature again, together with boat timber. The total value of "The Inventories of the goods and Chattel both within doors and without dead and alive of the late deceased Simon Bristowe" amounted to some £457 (equivalent consumer purchasing power of at today's value - see note).

The chief beneficiary of the Will was understandably his only son Samuel, born in 1658. It is a detailed document which shows that Simon had become a person of considerable property. Not only does he refer to "all my ffreehold Landes Tenements or Hereditaments" but we see also that to his wife Ann he bequeaths "all the landes & Tenements and hereditaments in ffinderne which were mortgaged to me by John Wilson of ffinderne". (Findern is 2 miles north-west of Twyford.)

Samuel (1658~1703) died when Twyford Hall was a house of three storeys: house, parlour, kitchen and buttery; three first—floor chambers; and a garrett, cheese chamber and servants' room on the top floor. He had married, firstly, Bennet Botham of Mickleover (4 miles NNW of Twyford), who died in 1691 after having three daughters. His second marriage, which took place the following year, was to Mary Ward of Burton, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.

Presbyterianism was strong in the Twyford area at this time and Cox in 'Three Centuries of Derbyshire Annals' refers to the existence of "a Presbyterian Dissenters' Meeting House at Twyford at Sam Bristow's house in 1689".

Samuel died at the age of only 45, this being "of St. Anthony's Fire, attended with a fever". (Subject to confirmation, I believe that St. Anthony's Fire was a condition akin to Ergot, a disease of rye etc. caused by a fungus.) He, like his father, had the status of 'yeoman' and his Will shows that the Bristowe wealth had continued its upward trend during his lifetime. One sees in particular pecuniary bequests amounting to over £1000 (some at present-day values), while the land holdings are described in more detail than previously, mention being made of "all those my closes commonly called the Moore Closes the horse closes and the lands adjacent" as well as "all those my closes commonly called by the names of Martin Greene (so far as my share goes) the Rye Close and all my forests thereunto adjoyning". Samuel also refers to other property he had by way of "my lands and tenaments lying within the liberty of Stenson". From the Inventory we see that there were 13 acres of cereal crops under cultivation, together with 10 acres of peas. There were now more cattle and horses than formerly, though no sheep and only "two swine". Amongst the household possessions were "a Gun and two Pistolls". The parcel of land which included the Martin Greene closes etc., as specified above, was left in the first instance to Samuel's wife Mary, his Will providing for it to pass to his elder son Samuel on her death, Samuel Jr. being only 9 when his father died. One wonders whether young Samuel, whom we may call Samuel II for convenience, did in fact have to wait until his mother's death, which did not take place until 1751, in order to inherit; I doubt it.

Be that as it may, we see with Samuel II (1694~1761) a further upturn in the status of the family. He acquires the social position of 'Gentleman', marries well and has his portrait painted, this being amongst the collection of Bristowe family portraits now held by Nottinghamshire Archives. Thus one can understand how it came about that in his Will his property holdings are described in rather grandiose fashion as follows:

"all and every my Messuages Lands Tenements and hereditaments whatsoever or wheresoever within the kingdom of Great Britain whereof or wherein I have my Estate of ffreehold or inheritance in possession Reversion Remainder or Expectancy".

Very probably some of this came to him through his marriage to Mary Savage of Burton Nether Hall, Staffordshire, whom Burke's Landed Gentry describes as being "descended from the noble family of Savage, Earl Rivers".

The chief beneficiary of Samuel II's Will was his elder son Samuel, the bequest including the whole of the landed property. However, handsome legacies of £1000 (equivalent value now about ) went to both his younger son Thomas and one of his daughters, Sarah. The other daughter, Mary, had a legacy of only £10, this presumably being because she was already married, whereas Sarah was not married until 1764. As far as Twyford Hall is concerned, Samuel II left no probate inventory describing the house at the time of his death.

(NB - Daughter Mary's legacy was probably accounted for in the "Marriage Settlement" that Samuel had provided when she married Samuel Fox in 1755 - G B Carlson)

Incidentally his widow Mary, who survived for a further 30 years, made a rather elaborate Will in 1778, this containing a string of legacies to various members of the family, including grandchildren, and to the servants and others. The detailed terms of this Will, together with the fact that Mary wrote no less than seven codicils thereafter, specifying amongst other things a considerable number of additional bequests, would appear to indicate a rather fussy mind, albeit one discerns a strong sense of charity to those less fortunate than herself. One such codicil, written in 1782, withdrew a legacy of £10 previously intended for her son-in-law James Huthwait, husband of Sarah, because "Mr. Huthwait has behaved so ill in sundry respects".

With the advent of Samuel III (1736~1818), we see a particularly significant event in the whole Bristowe family story in that it was he who in 1764, just 3 years after his father's death, bought Beesthorpe Hall from his kinsman William Bristowe (1695~1770) who had impoverished the estate. Samuel, already in possession of the Twyford Estate, clearly had the means to put Beesthorpe to rights and it thus entered its finest period with substantial improvements being made, both to the Hall and the estate as a whole, over the next 50 years.

As well as being the architect of Beesthorpe's new found prosperity, Samuel III achieved some distinction in public life, being a J.P. for both the counties of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and High Sheriff for Notts in 1799. He is another of the main Bristowe figures to have his portrait in the collection at Notts Archives, the painting being attributed provisionally to Joseph Wright of Derby. There are two other important points concerning Samuel's life; firstly he remained unmarried, and secondly he passed Twyford Hall to his younger brother Thomas (1739~1814). We do not know when it was that Thomas took over from Samuel III at Twyford but we see that, like his brother, he made an advantageous marriage locally. This was to Mary Fosbrooke of Shardlowe (Shardlow, some 6 miles east of Twyford), a member of another family boasting an ancient lineage. She was of the branch which moved to Shardlow from Northamptonshire in the 17th Century. They acquired sufficient wealth through their business as carriers of river traffic on the Trent as to enable them to buy the Shardlow Estate and build Shardlow Hall, which was completed in 1684. Twyford itself played a part in the river traffic, barges being unloaded there and one of the buildings at the Hall being used as a warehouse to store goods.

There now comes a difficult stage in the Bristowe family relationships, stemming from the fact that Samuel III died a bachelor, his brother Thomas having died 4 years previously. Although Thomas had a son, Samuel IV (1766~1846), it was not to him that the Twyford Estate devolved. Instead it went to Samuel Ellis Bristowe (1800~1855), the eldest of Samuel IV's sons, an occurrence bemoaned by Samuel IV's step-daughter, Mary Anne Lesiter, in no uncertain terms.

After Mary Anne Lesiter's father had been lost at sea in 1795, her mother married Samuel IV in New York in 1797. Lesiter had a notebook in which she wrote a potted history of the family from that time until her mother's death in 1850. (With regard to my quotes from this source, the point should be made that she always refers to her step-father as though he were her actual father and to his children as though they were her actual brothers and sisters.)

It is from the Lesiter notebook that we learn that Samuel IV had left England in 1794 "on account of domestic discomfort" and found a home in America. "On landing in New York he had only one Guinea in his pocket but he soon found friends and was shortly established as clerk in one of the most respectable mercantile houses in that city, where he remained till his marriage with my dear mother when he commenced business on his own account". It would appear that he became successfully established in New York, where the first five of his children were born. However, Lesiter records that in 1806 "my father returned to England by the urgent request of his sister Mrs. Welby accompanied by brother Ellis. He remained about 18 months and then returned to New York, leaving Ellis with his Uncle at Twyford who adopted and educated him." This was of course his great-uncle Samuel III.

Early in 1809 Samuel IV, with his wife and some of the family, returned to England, arriving at Twyford on 14th February. Lesiter: "We remained at Twyford rather more than a year and a year of bitter suffering and persecution it was to my beloved mother". In 1810 they left Twyford to live at Beesthorpe with Samuel IV's father Thomas. They stayed there nearly 12 years but in the interim (1818) Samuel III died. Lesiter:"He wickedly disinherited my poor father and left his estates to my brother Ellis." Unfortunately there is nothing in the Lesiter notebook to enlighten us about the whys and wherefores of the apparent breach between Samuels III and IV. It would have been interesting too, to know what Samuel Ellis and his father felt about each other.

Benefitting perhaps from the influence of his great-uncle, Samuel Ellis achieved some distinction in his own right, becoming a J.P. (Justice of the Peace) and a D.L. (Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire), and it is my belief that one of the unidentified family portraits at Notts Archives is of him. Lesiter records that he and his first wife Mary Anne Fox, following their marriage in 1821, "wished to reside at Beesthorpe and therefore we were obliged to leave it and took a house in Pelham Street, Newark". In 1826 he stood unsuccessfully for election to Parliament as a Liberal. Mary Anne died in 1829; he re-married in 1836, his second wife being Lady Alicia Mary Needham, daughter of the late Earl of Kilmorey.

It was during Samuel Ellis's time that the Bristowes started disengaging from Twyford and, with his children and grandchildren, we see a renewed emphasis on Beesthorpe. Although he was named as occupier of Twyford Hall in a Directory of 1846, the house had in 1821 been offered to be let from year to year, though as the advertisement appeared four times in the Derby Mercury, perhaps there were no takers initially. In the 1841 Census a farmer called William Bromley was living there with his family and servants.

In 1856 Twyford Hall was offered for sale, Samuel Ellis having died the preceding year. As the Bristowes' 99-year lease had expired in 1769 they must have purchased the house then, thus being in a position to sell it in 1856, at which time the estate was only a 95-acre farm. It was bought by the Harpur Crewe Estate circa 1861.

As a postscript, it is nice that we know exactly what at least one member of the family felt about Twyford. This was William Bristowe (1809~1828), one of Samuel Ellis's brothers. When a lad of 14, William visited Twyford Hall en route for Repton School, which he entered in August 1823. In his first letter home he referred to his journey to Repton with his father when they called at the Hall. Thus William said "I had a chance of seeing the place of my birth. I like it very much indeed. I wished we lived there but I should suppose that is impossible". Sadly the young fellow, having gone out to India only two years later in order to join the Army of the East India Company, died as an Ensign at Madras due to ill health shortly before reaching the age of 19.


John B. Chanter
17 December 2002.


Note: The present day equivalent domestic purchasing value of the sums given in 1681, 1703 and 1761 have been calculated as you accessed this web page, using information provided by the Office of National Statistics (UK), and the House of Commons Library (UK). (PDF File 245K) The data used is from the 'Purchasing Power of the Pound' and 'Composite Price Index' tables back to 1750 with straight line extrapolation to 1703 and 1681 using 0.2% per annum as the mean rate of inflation. The actual values used are calculated using (PPP + CPI)/2. Forward inflation from 2003 has been accounted for at the current rate of 2.6% per annum.



page revised 7:30 p.m. 14/06/2005