Tag Archives: Kent

Historic family connections in Kendal

During the Easter holidays we took a trip up to Scotland to visit some friends. Scotland was looking stunningly beautiful, as always, and the landscape reminded us fondly of the South Island of New Zealand, our home for 15 years.

In order to break the journey on the way back, we stopped for two nights in Kendal. I knew there were some historic family connections with Kendal and Westmorland, and I wanted to investigate further.

The Morland family originally came from a village called Morland in Westmorland. We visited there two years ago on our last trip up to Scotland.


My ancestors also include the Matson family, who came from a place called Titup in Dalton-in-Furness. Ann Matson married Thomas Morland in the 1770s (she was the mother of the ‘Jane Austen generation’ of the Morland family. See this blog post for more information about that). This is Ann as a young lady:

Ann Morland as a young woman

Ann Morland as a young woman

And this is her sister, Margaret Matson:

Margaret Matson as a young lady

Margaret Matson as a young lady

We visited Kendal Parish Church, which is a very impressive building, illustrating the wealth of this area in the 18th Century. Inside we found some plaques to some of my Morland and Matson ancestors! This was very exciting, as we have portraits in the house of some of the people named on these plaques.


The people named on this plaque are William Matson of Titup and his wife Ann, daughter of Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite. I’m pretty sure that this William and Ann Matson were the parents of Ann and Margaret in the portraits above. Not only that, but we have portraits in the house of William Matson, his wife Ann, and Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite.

William Matson of Titup

William Matson of Titup

Ann Morland, wife of William Matson

Ann Morland, wife of William Matson

Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite

Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite

This portrait of Jacob Morland is supposedly by George Romney, a famous portrait artist from Kendal. There was a plaque to him in Kendal Parish Church too, and many of his paintings were on display in the Kendal art gallery.

Plaque to George Romney

Plaque to George Romney

However, like many of the portraits in Court Lodge, our ‘Romney’ is actually a copy. At various points in the family history the portraits were copied and the originals sold. The original hangs in the Tate Britain, and looks like this:

Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite by George Romney

Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite by George Romney

Quite a difference! We visited the art gallery in Kendal and saw many more of the Romney portraits, which show that this portrait is very much of his style. See this one, for example:

Portrait of INSERT NAME by George Romney

Portrait by George Romney

There were other plaques in Kendal Parish Church of Morland and Matson ancestors. We found this one under a carpet in the Parr Chapel of the Church (named after the family of Katherine Parr, the wife of Henry VIII who survived him):

Plaque to Margaret Matson, Relict of William Matson of Titeup

Plaque to Margaret Matson, Relict of William Matson of Titeup

And this one names another daughter of Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite:

Plaque to Thomas Holme and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite

Plaque to Thomas Holme and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite

The place that is frequently mentioned in connection with the Matson family is Titup (sometimes spelt Titeup). I had googled Titup to see if it was a place that still existed, but had found nothing. However, Ian got on the case, and found that if you were a bit more relaxed about the spelling, something fascinating turned up. He found a house near Dalton-in-Furness for sale on an estate agent’s website called Tytup Hall. Here it is:

Tytup Hall, Dalton-in-Furness

Tytup Hall, Dalton-in-Furness

It was so exciting to see a picture of the house that Ann Matson must have lived in before moving to Court Lodge when she married Thomas Morland. The estate agent’s website also included an Ordnance Survey map showing Tytup Hall:

Ordnance Survey map showing Tytup Hall

Ordnance Survey map showing Tytup Hall

While we were in the Kendal museum, we bought a copy of the first edition Ordnance Survey map of the area, and sure enough, in the very same place, just North of Dalton-in-Furness is Titeup Hall (note the different spelling!):

Titeup Hall on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map from the 1860s

Titeup Hall on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map from the 1860s

I felt like this visit to Kendal put me in touch with my historical family connections in this part of the world. It was great to see the plaques in the church, and be able to connect them with the portraits that we have in the house. The collection of portraits that we have now makes more sense to me. Ann Matson must have brought with her portraits of her parents (Ann and William Matson) and her grandfather (Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite), as well as the portrait of herself and her sister Margaret. Just like we surround ourselves with photographs, carry them round with us on our phones, and share them on social media, our ancestors in the eighteenth century brought their portraits with them when they married into a new life.

It was also wonderful to see Titup Hall, albeit on an estate agent’s website, as I have seen it mentioned in the family pedigree, as well as on all the plaques. It makes my family history seem all the more real to me.


Cutting back an out-of-control hedge in the garden

Over the last 18 months the garden has really responded to the hard work, talent and dedication of our head gardener, Hamish Bett, and our amazing team of volunteers. There is still lots to do (in fact there will always be lots to do!), but progress is definitely being made.

One job that we have made a start on is removing the overgrown yew hedge around the knot garden. It had grown so big that it was pushing over the stone wall that surrounds the knot garden. We want to restore the stone wall, so we had to get rid of the yew.

The yew hedge started life as four small yew bushes evenly spaced along the knot garden wall, as you can see in this picture from the 19th Century:

View of the south facade of Court Lodge from what is now the golf course. You can clearly see the wall around the knot garden and, if you zoom in, four evenly spaced yew balls within it.

View of the south facade of Court Lodge from what is now the golf course. You can clearly see the wall around the knot garden and, if you zoom in, four evenly spaced yew balls within it.

Over time those four yew bushes had grown so huge, and merged into one another that the result, looking out from the south terrace, looked like this:




Although the knot garden looks beautiful, you can’t see the wall at all for the surrounding yew hedge. You can see the four original yew balls, and how they have merged to make one enormous yew hedge that was at least 3 metres deep.

The effect of the hedge on the stone wall can be seen here:

P1030125 P1030123

The wall is Grade II listed, as is Court Lodge, and all the structures in the garden, so we have to restore and maintain it. Back in February, Ian and Hamish decided to take drastic action and take down the yew. Here are some pictures of that process:



There was a massive amount of yew hedge to get rid of, so we had several nights of bonfires, but you can see the wall being revealed from under the hedge. The final result shows how much the view has opened up for us now:

IMG_4499 IMG_4495 IMG_4500


The cherry tree in the middle is also going to have to come down, as its roots are also interfering with the wall, but we will let it blossom one last time. Once it’s gone though, and the wall is restored, the view across the golf course from Court Lodge will be magnificent.


Digging up more history at Court Lodge

A while ago we were contacted by some keen metal detectorists, wanting to know if they could came and run their metal detectors around the garden at Court Lodge. Apparently, sites untouched by metal detectorists are rare, and they are always on the lookout for places they can come and visit and indulge their interest.

We were more than happy for them to come and see what they could find at Court Lodge. If they find anything of value they would share it with us. They told us of a recent find nearby of a chest full of coins (buried treasure!) that had netted the owners and the detectorists £1.2m! But even if they didn’t find anything of value, we thought there was a good chance that they would find things of interest.

So, what did they find? Well, there were lots of 20p coins on the lawn! We figured this was probably from the Lazy Sunday fete that we held last September. There was also the cap of a hand grenade, and some musket balls. I’m not sure how old these would be, or what they are evidence of, but it certainly shows that there have been some interesting goings-on here at Court Lodge in the past. The researcher from the Kent Gardens Trust, Mike O’Brien, who wrote a report on the history of our garden last year discovered that there was once a rifle range on the parkland of the estate, probably built for my great grandfather, Henry, and his older brother Charles, who were both in the army in the late 19th century. He also found that munitions were stored on the golf course during the second world war.

Another thing our metal detectorists found was an old golfing cap badge:


The first nine holes of Lamberhurst golf course was originally laid out by the Morland family as their own private golf course in the parkland of the estate. Siegfried Sassoon used to come and play here, as he records in his memoirs. (I’ve written more about this in a blog post here.) I’d love to know the history of this badge.

This discovery reminded us of one of the photos we’d found among the old glass slides (see previous post). It looks like a boys’ cricket match was played at Court Lodge on what is now part of the golf course.

Cricket South ParkIt looks like Court Lodge has been the site of many sporting triumphs through the years. I just love all the physical evidence of Court Lodge’s past that the house and the garden keeps throwing up for us to wonder about.


Did Jane Austen ever visit Court Lodge?

Those of you who follow this blog, may remember a post of mine about a year ago about the connections between the Morland family of Court Lodge and Jane Austen’s family. (If you missed it, it’s here: https://courtlodgeestate.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/jane-austen-the-morlands-and-court-lodge/)

In the year since I wrote that last post, I have been finding out more about these connections, and in particular, about Francis Motley Austen.

To briefly recap, the generation of the Morland family that was contemporary with Jane Austen consisted of seven siblings. The youngest, Margaretta Morland, married Col. Thomas Austen, Jane Austen’s second cousin. Further research showed that, not just one, but five of these seven siblings married someone with some connection to the Austen family. The Morlands and the Austens were far more connected with each other than I had realised.

There was one thread of my investigation that I hadn’t been able to reach the end of, and I desperately wanted to find the missing information. It had become clear that Francis Motley Austen, father of Col. Thomas Austen, and son of Jane Austen’s wealthy great uncle Old Francis Austen, had lived here in Lamberhurst for about 15 years. What I hadn’t been able to find out was where in Lamberhurst he lived. No one seemed to know, not the Kent branch of the Jane Austen Society, nor various Jane Austen scholars that I made contact with.

The evidence that he had lived in Lamberhurst was that 5 of his children were born and christened in the church here between 1781 and 1787, and that another of Jane Austen’s cousins, Phylly Walter, is recorded as having visited him and his family at their house in Lamberhurst. And one tantalising piece of evidence was that in 1783 he ordered a had from a London hat maker from Court Lodge!

When I first read this last piece of evidence I assumed that he must have been visiting Court Lodge, being perhaps friends with the Morlands who lived here at the time. But then it was suggested to me that perhaps he actually lived here. My first reaction was that he couldn’t have lived here, because the Morlands have owned Court Lodge since 1733. But then I had an idea.

During the 1780s the head of the Morland family, Thomas Morland, father of the seven children who were contemporary with Jane Austen, died quite young. He was 50, and his eldest son, William Alexander Morland, was a minor at the time. I remember my great uncle William wondering whether Thomas’s widow, Ann, looked after the house until her son came of age, or whether she went back to Cumbria, where her family were, and left Court Lodge in the hands of a steward. The penny dropped!

My theory took shape. Francis Motley Austen did live here at Court Lodge: he acted as steward, looking after it until William Alexander Morland came of age and wanted to come and take over the reigns. In 1796, when Francis Motley Austen moved to Kippington, William Alexander Morland would have been 29, married, and ready to move back in as squire of Court Lodge, having practised law in London for some years.

To support my theory, you may recall another more recent blog post of mine about hair powder licenses. (https://courtlodgeestate.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/a-license-to-use-powder/) I wrote here about finding some old hair powder licenses, naming all of the women in the Morland family in the 1790s. They are stated as living in Highgate, Kendal.

So, to answer great uncle William’s question: Ann Morland did return to Cumbria with her daughters, and so must have left Court Lodge in the hands of a steward. Next, I needed some evidence that Francis Motley Austen definitely lived here. And it wasn’t hard to find.

I searched on the National Archives, and found an old legal document dating from 1794. One of the parties to this indenture is, and I quote, “Francis Motley Austen of Court Lodge, Lamberhurst in the county of Kent”!

The fourth line down says "Between Francis Motley Austen of Court Lodge in..." It continues on the next line, which is in the next picture.

The fourth line down says “Between Francis Motley Austen of Court Lodge in…” It continues on the next line, which is in the next picture.

The fifth line down continues from where the last line left off "... Lamberhurst in the county of Kent esquire"

The fifth line down continues from where the last line left off “… Lamberhurst in the county of Kent esquire”

So here is some concrete evidence that Francis Motley Austen lived at Court Lodge!

What makes this particularly interesting is that when Phylly Walter came to visit the Motley Austen cousins at Lamberhurst in 1787, she would have visited them here at Court Lodge.

She went to Tunbridge Wells, and records the daily round of shopping, dancing, theatre-going, horse racing, sightseeing and concerts at the assembly rooms, including a dinner visit to the Motley Austen cousins at Lamberhurst.

She was travelling with Eliza de Feuillide and Mrs Philadelphia Hancock.

If my theory is correct, she would have visited the Motley Austen cousins at Court Lodge.

Although there is no record of Jane Austen visiting Court Lodge, to my knowledge, she is known to have visited her other cousins in Kent. So it is entirely possible that she, like her cousin, Phylly Walter, did visit her Motley Austen cousins, and if so, she would have come here to Court Lodge.

This is so exciting for me, not only because it demonstrates that the link between Jane Austen and Court Lodge is closer than we ever thought before, but also because I seem to have happened upon some genuinely new information. No one knew where in Lamberhurst Francis Motley Austen lived… until now. He lived at Court Lodge.

Getting festive @CourtLodgeEst

Things are starting to get a little bit festive here at Court Lodge. Today our 10 ft Christmas tree was delivered by the lovely people at Hartley Dyke Farm Shop just outside Cranbrook. We put it up in the library, and this evening the children, Mum, Ian and I all decorated it. We think it looks great.

We were also very honoured to receive our dolls house back from one of our incredible volunteers, Geoffrey Forster, who has done an amazing job restoring it. It is a Georgian dolls house, made for Hamley’s in 1906, and bought for my grandmother who was 4 years old at the time. I will post some more photos of the dolls house’s restoration next time, but for now, enjoy the Christmassy scene:


Court Lodge on the front page again!



Opening the post yesterday I was very excited to see the latest edition of the Kent Gardens Trust newsletter, featuring Court Lodge on the front page. During the course of the year one of the researchers from the Kent Gardens Trust, Mike O’Brien, carried out some really in-depth research into the history of Court Lodge, with a particular focus on the garden. The final report was published a few months ago, and now the Trust has featured Mike’s work in its newsletter.

Mike’s report traces the history of Court Lodge back to the reign of King John (1199-1216). It wouldn’t have been the very same building that stands today, but there has clearly been a manor house on this site for over 800 years.

His research was so thorough, that working with him was very instructive. One thing he enjoyed about the project was the fact that there was so much archival material available to him. There are boxes of documents in the house, as well as many old family photograph albums, and there are also the diaries in the archives. We also have a series of 19th century hand painted plates on the walls around the staircase documenting the garden in its heyday.

The south face of the house overlooking the knot garden

The south face of the house overlooking the knot garden

A view across the pond to the summer house

A view across the pond to the summer house

A view over the pond to the Church

A view over the pond to the Church

A path alongside the sunken garden leading to the Church

A path alongside the sunken garden leading to the Church

The east face of the house

The east face of the house

The sunken garden

The sunken garden

Mike found out so much more about the garden during his research, including many things we didn’t know. He came across an obituary for a gardener named Cephus Nye who was “gardener to the Morland family for 69 years” according to the Times, and who died in 1951 aged 85, which means he must have been a teenager when he started working in the garden, and continued working in the garden practically until the day he died! When I was reading my great uncle William’s diary for 1949, I came across a few comments referring to Nye:

“Nye is still digging in the kitchen garden, and considering his 81 years he is very remarkable.”

“Nye highly indignant with Manser because he had worked all through the rain and got soaking wet out of doors when there were lots of jobs for him to do indoors.”

“Nye pruning the roses – obviously in a bad temper.”

It is fascinating to see the story of Court Lodge, and of the garden, pieced together by Mike’s discoveries, and the diaries kept by my ancestors, and to see the characters emerge from the page and come to life.

Great Uncle William clearly felt the same too, as I also read in his diary for 1949, which is the year after his mother died, that he too spent time reading his grandfather’s diaries. He writes, “Read some of Grandpapa Morland’s diaries. He sailed through life with a magnificent confidence with plenty of interests, and enthusiasm and love of his home and estate. Life cannot have been so bad in those days for the likes of him and I am sure he made the world around him a better place.” I drew a similar conclusion reading the same diaries, those of William Courtenay Morland, my great great grandfather, earlier this year.

Great Uncle William goes on, “One could wish some of the entries were elaborated. What did he mean by “night school” in 1856? Did he go to learn or to teach? What did he and various friends lecture on, and to whom? What were the chemical experiments with which he amused Charley? Reading old diaries and letters and press cuttings is humiliating. And salutary.”

Mike O’Brien’s research into the history of Court Lodge has really helped us to move forwards in uncovering the story of Court Lodge. There is, and always will be, more to find out, and we are lucky to have so much archival material to draw on. If only we had more time to spend reading it.

Anyone wanting to read Mike’s report on the Court Lodge garden will be able to do so soon (hopefully!) on either the Kent Gardens Trust website (www.kentgardenstrust.org.uk/) or the Parks and Gardens website (http://www.parksandgardens.org/).

A license to… use powder?

At our visit to the archives the other day, Ian and I came across the following intriguing envelope:


Why would my ancestors need a license to use powder? Our first thought was that it had something to do with gunpowder, bearing in mind my ancestors’ penchant for hunting (see previous post). But when we looked inside, the names on these licenses were all names of the women in the Morland family:



The dates of these licenses were 1797-1799, and the names on them were the names of all the women in the Morland family at that time. Ann Morland was the head of the family, as her husband, Thomas Morland had died in 1784. Thomas and Ann had three sons and four daughters. All of her daughters are named on the licenses; Anna Eleanora, Mary, Margaretta and Eliza. Unless these female ancestors of mine were gunpowder-toting women, the licenses must have been for some other kind of powder.

Ann Morland as a young woman

Ann Morland (nee Matson) as a young woman

Ann Matson as an older woman, perhaps at the time she was living in Kendal

Ann Morland as an older woman, perhaps at the time she was living in Kendal

One of the documents revealed the answer: they were licenses for hair powder. In 1795 the government passed the Duty on Hair Powder Act, as one of many extra taxes imposed to pay for wars. Anyone wanting to use hair powder had to pay one guinea for an annual certificate.

What truly amazes me about this discovery is that these hair powder licenses were kept by every subsequent generation of Morlands, until they were eventually deposited in the Maidstone archives by my great uncle William. The Morlands certainly never had a clearout!

There are a couple of other interesting things to note here. Ann is listed as ‘housekeeper’. Does this mean ‘head of the household’? And there is another powder license in the name of Ann’s sister, Margaret Matson, who is listed as ‘inmate’.


My guess is that this means something like ‘member of the household’, as another of the documents listed, among the available options, housekeeper, daughter, inmate. So it seems that Ann’s sister never married, and lived with her in Kendal after she, Ann, had been widowed. This is a picture of Margaret as a young girl:


Another interesting thing is that these powder licenses have revealed some information that I didn’t know, and have opened up some lines of further enquiry. Ann’s husband had, as I mentioned, died in 1784, and I remember my great uncle William writing in a letter that he didn’t know whether Ann had stayed at Court Lodge, or moved back to Westmorland where she came from. These powder licenses show her living in Highgate, Kendal, with at least all four of her daughters. William also mentioned in that letter that two of her sons, William Alexander and Henry, went to school in Cumberland (with Wordsworth, as it happens – another literary connection to the Morlands!), so it looks very much like the whole family decamped up to Westmorland after Thomas’s death.

This is intriguing because the family also very clearly moved back to Court Lodge at some point not long after, as William Alexander was the head of the family at Court Lodge until his death in 1846. So it raises the questions: when did the Morlands move back to Court Lodge? And who lived at Court Lodge while Ann and her children were living in Kendal?

These questions are tantalising, and I have a few ideas as to how they might be answered. The answers, if I’m right, are quite exciting! I will do a little more research and then update this blog with what I have found out, so stay tuned!