Tag Archives: Research

Bringing home my ancestors’ diaries

During the 20th Century my great uncle, William Morland, deposited many old documents that he had found in Court Lodge with the Kent archives. These documents included old estate maps, accounts, letters dating back as far as the 18th century, strange documents such as the hair powder licenses I wrote about a while ago, and lots and lots of diaries. My ancestors were evidently great diary keepers. There are 24 volumes of my great great grandfather, William Courtenay Morland’s diaries, and I have visited the archives in Maidstone several times to read some of them. There are also diaries by my great grandmother, Bessie Morland (née Laird), and Ada Morland who was the lady of the house during World War One. I have written about her diary from 1914, when the house was turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers, here. There is also a lovely radio piece by BBC Radio Kent about the use of Court Lodge during World War One that you can listen to here.

I’ve been corresponding with the archives for some time about the possibility of bringing the diaries back to Court Lodge temporarily so that we can get them all fully transcribed. We have a wonderful team of volunteers who come here regularly and were eager to start delving into the history of Court Lodge through these diaries. The archives needed various documentation from me, to prove that I am descended from the depositor of the diaries, which I eventually managed to procure. Finally, one week ago, all the hoops had been duly jumped through, and Ian and I were able to collect the diaries and bring them home.

Boxes of diaries

Boxes of diaries

WCMs diaries from the 19th Century

WCMs diaries from the 19th Century

It seems that each year he bought the same Lett’s diary, and recorded his daily life in it on pretty much every day.

As well as reading the whole of WCM’s diaries, I’m particularly looking forward to reading the diaries of Bessie and Ada, to find out more about what women’s life was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

We have also finally got round to sorting through various old boxes of keys that we found in the house. Some of these are very old. Most, we think, no longer open anything in the house. But they are a historical record in their own right.

Boxes of old keys

Boxes of old keys

This key is labelled "Gaol Committee Room" and the key next to it is from the Bayham Estate

This key is labelled “Gaol Committee Room” and the key next to it is from the Bayham Estate

The key to the Gaol Committee Room must have been WCM’s as he writes frequently in his diary of travelling to Maidstone to attend the Gaol Committee meetings. He was a Justice of the Peace for the district. There are also several keys to the Bayham Estate. I’m not quite sure how they ended up here!

This set of keys was for the Silver Chest. Sadly, we no longer have a silver chest.

These keys are labelled "Silver Chest"

These keys are labelled “Silver Chest”

Along with the keys we also found this money bag from the Anglo-Egyptian Bank in Cairo! Empty, alas!

This money bag is from the Anglo-Egyptian Bank in Cairo

This money bag is from the Anglo-Egyptian Bank in Cairo

One thing I love about being at Court Lodge is unearthing all this evidence of its history, and the people who lived here.

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Architectural connections between Court Lodge and Kendal

I wrote recently about our stopover in Kendal on the way back home from Bonny Scotland, and how we found many historical family connections there. But there was another dimension to our trip to Kendal: an architectural one.

There has been a house on the site of Court Lodge since at least the 12th Century, but the current house was, we believe, built by my ancestor William Morland in 1730. We think that he tore down the (probably Jacobean) house that was on the site, and built the current house, probably from stone quarried from the site. He built it in the Queen Anne style, that was much more common in Westmorland than here in Kent. A typical Kentish manor house looks something like this:

Kentish Wealden Hall

Kentish Wealden Hall

Court Lodge, by contrast, looks like this:

South facade of Court Lodge

South facade of Court Lodge

Notice the arched windows; this will become relevant in a moment. We love the arched windows, and in fact, chose to incorporate them into our logo for Court Lodge when we first arrived back here:

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The colour of the logo is taken from the stonework of the building.

Court Lodge is therefore quite different from typical Kentish buildings. When we arrived in Kendal, however, it became abundantly clear where the inspiration for the architecture of Court Lodge came from. These are some of the buildings we saw:

Georgian building on Highgate, Kendal

Georgian building on Highgate, Kendal

Another Georgian building in Kendal, with arched windows

Another Georgian building in Kendal, with arched windows

The large blocks of stone, the Georgian sash windows, and the arched windows are all a recurring theme, and something these buildings have very much in common with Court Lodge.

We visited a very nice pub for lunch while in Kendal, the Globe Inn, and got chatting with the landlord about the reasons for our visit. We mentioned the architecture, and he told us that there is a particular type of window called a Westmorland window. It is an arched window that extends beyond one storey of the building, often in a stairwell. I looked around Kendal for examples of Westmorland windows, and found several. Here are a couple:

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This was very exciting, because we realised straight away that Court Lodge has a Westmorland window!

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The arched window here in the centre of the East facade looks onto the stairwell of the main stairs, and clearly goes between two storeys, so it fits the description of a Westmorland window. My ancestor, William Morland, certainly took his architectural inspiration from Westmorland, and incorporated a Westmorland window into the design of the building. The only thing that seems not quite right is that this window does not have the traditional Georgian glazing that the other arched windows have. I suspect it was rebuilt at some point during its history, and that it was originally glazed in the same way that the other arched windows are.

Another thing I had discovered before our trip to Kendal was that Ann Morland, pictured below, had moved back to Kendal after her husband died.

Ann Morland as a young woman

Ann Morland as a young woman

Ann Morland 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

I found this out purely by chance when I discovered some old hair powder licenses among the Morland documents in the archives. See this post for more about that discovery. These documents cite Ann Morland, her sister Margaret Matson, and her daughters Anna Eleanora, Mary, Eliza and Margaretta, all living on Highgate in Kendal.

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I don’t know which house on Highgate they lived on, but it is lined with many substantial Georgian houses. I plan to contact the Kendal library’s archivist to see if there is any way of finding out where precisely they lived on this street.

Highgate, Kendal

Highgate, Kendal

Once again, I feel that this brief trip to Kendal has helped make more sense of Court Lodge as a building to me. It’s history tells a story of the origins of the Morland family, and that story is written into its architecture.

Images of India from another era

Apologies for my lack of activity on this blog for a while. We have been extremely busy with lots of different projects here at Court Lodge, which I will hopefully be able to write all about very soon.

A while ago I wrote about my great grandfather’s travels to India and various other places throughout what was then the British Empire in the late 1880s. You can read that entry here. In that post I wrote about discovering a new side to Henry, my great grandfather. We all knew that he was massively into his big game hunting, and also that he had a violent temper. But reading his diaries I found out that he also had a genuine appreciation for the art and architecture that he discovered on his travels, as well as a deep fondness for his wife, at least at that early stage in his marriage.

Henry also, evidently, was a huge fan and a big early adopter of photography. As I mentioned in another post, we have many boxes of old glass slides, and we have recently found a way of converting them into digital images. That process is ongoing, and I’ll report back with more of these images as we sift through them. However, many of these glass slides were developed by Henry, and we have several old photograph albums containing these images. There is one old photograph album in particular that is quite an impressive object:

Henry Courtenay Morland's photograph album

Henry Courtenay Morland’s photograph album

Henry developed many of his glass slides, and the images are here inside this album. There are photos of Court Lodge, the family and the garden, as well as photos he took on his travels round the world. I’ve already shown some of the photos from inside this album on earlier blog posts. See, for example, here, here and here.

Here are some of those photos from India, Africa, and Europe. I’ve also included modern photos of the same places alongside some of Henry’s photos.

The Taj Mahal in the 1880s

The Taj Mahal in the 1880s

The Taj Mahal today

The Taj Mahal today

 

The Kashmir gate in the 1880s

The Kashmir gate in the 1880s

 

The Kashmir gate today

The Kashmir gate today

The Qutub Minar - Delhi in the 1880s

The Qutub Minar – Delhi in the 1880s

The Qutub Minar today

The Qutub Minar today

Gwalior fortress in the 1880s

Gwalior fortress in the 1880s

Gwalior fortress today

Gwalior fortress today

Gwalior fortress in the 1880s

Gwalior fortress in the 1880s

Gwalior fortress today

Gwalior fortress today

Humayun's tomb in the 1880s

Humayun’s tomb in the 1880s

Humayun's tomb today

Humayun’s tomb today

Hindu temple at Gwalior

Hindu temple at Gwalior

Gwalior temple today

Gwalior temple today

 

Palace at Gwalior in the 1880s

Palace at Gwalior in the 1880s

Palace at Gwalior today

Palace at Gwalior today

Cape Town in the 1880s

Cape Town in the 1880s

Nice, France, in the 1880s

Nice, France, in the 1880s

Nice today

Nice today

Henry is second from the left standing. I'm not sure who the others are, but this picture is so evocative of Colonial India.

Henry is second from the left standing. I’m not sure who the others are, but this picture is so evocative of Colonial India.

I don’t know who the people in the next two pictures are either, but they are stunning photographs.

 

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Casino at Monte Carlo

Casino at Monte Carlo

Lastly, here are a few more images of India taken from the glass slides that we have been digitising lately.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these images of India and other places in the 19th century. Keep watching this blog for more old photographs.

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.

A tale of two pairs of portraits

I recently made contact with the Courtenay family of Powderham Castle in Devon. The current generation of the Courtenay family at Powderham Castle are Lord and Lady Devon. Lord Devon is the 18th Earl of Devon. Two hundred years ago, Lady Caroline Eustatia Courtenay, daughter of the 8th Earl of Devon, married Col. Charles Morland. They were my great great great grandparents, and ever since that union, every generation of the Morland family has given the middle name Courtenay to its sons. My brother, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather all have (or had) the middle name Courtenay.

We have some portraits of the Courtenay family at Court Lodge, and Dad told me that they are copies, and the originals are at Powderham Castle. Having become more familiar with my family history and forebears over the last couple of years, I was intrigued to see the originals of our portraits. I wrote to Lord and Lady Devon, sending them photos of our portraits, and they were equally intrigued by this connection.

As it happened, we had arranged to visit my sister in Brittany over Christmas, and were catching the ferry from Plymouth a few days before Christmas, so I asked Lord and Lady Devon if we could visit Powderham Castle en route to Plymouth. Happily this worked out well. We stayed the night in a B&B near the castle, and visited the next day. It was quite an experience seeing paintings I know so well in a completely different setting. They are not exact copies, and the differences are really interesting.

This is our version of the family of William Courtenay, 8th Earl of Devon. It hangs above the staircase at Court Lodge. William and his wife, Frances Clack, had 13 daughters and one son. Caroline Eustatia is the little girl snuggling into her mother’s side.

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And this is the original that hangs in Powderham Castle:

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The two versions of the portraits are incredibly similar. At first sight Ian and I thought ours was bigger, but I think it is just that theirs is in a bigger room, so the proportions are different. Ours does, however, seem a bit brighter.

We were told the story of how the 8th Earl and Frances Clack met. Apparently William was studying in Oxford, and travelled frequently between London and Oxford, stopping at a coaching inn at Wallingford. The innkeeper had three beautiful daughters, and William Courtenay eloped with Frances, the most beautiful. They ran away to Edinburgh and got married there.

Another of our Courtenay paintings is the one we call “The Three Graces”. It is of Harriet, Lucy and Caroline Courtenay:

Courtenay Girls

 

Seeing the original of this one was quite illuminating. Notice the dog at the girls’ feet, and in the distance you can see Powderham Castle. Now look at the original:

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There is no dog in this one; instead there is Cupid! And it is not Powderham Castle in the distance, but a folly instead. I told Mum about the cupid/dog and she recalled being told by Great Uncle William that someone in the Morland family had been appalled that there was a naked infant in the portrait and insisted it was changed to a dog!

Apparently the cupid was there to signify the fact that all three ladies were engaged to be married when the portrait was painted.

We also have a preliminary sketch of William Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon. He was the one son with 13 sisters:

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This preliminary sketch was done in preparation for a portrait that hangs in Powderham:

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We also have a painting of Powderham Castle from the mouth of the River Exe:

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We didn’t see one of these at Powderham, so we’re not sure if it is a copy as well.

One other thing we saw there was an organ. We too have an organ in our library, and it was William Courtenay Morland, son of Caroline Eustatia Courtenay and Charles Morland, who had it installed. Perhaps it was the fact that his mother’s family home had an organ in it that inspired him to install one at Court Lodge.

The organ at Powderham Castle

The organ at Powderham Castle

The organ at Court Lodge

The organ at Court Lodge

All in all it was a fascinating experience. The Courtenays were extremely welcoming, and Felicity Harper, who works at the castle and runs the Courtenay Society, was extremely kind, taking the children to see their animals, and then giving them their own private tour of the castle while we were shown around by Lord Devon. We may only be very distantly related, but it felt like being welcomed into the family.

Merry Christmas to you all, and stay tuned for more news from Court Lodge in the New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Court Lodge on the front page again!

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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:

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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:

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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’.

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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:

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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!