Nelthorpe Family History
(The below is a brief history of the more significant members of the family, written by Anthony Sutton Nelthorpe in 2008. If you have a deeper interest in the history of the family and area then we encourage you to investigate the family papers, which are held at the Lincolnshire Archives)
Richard Nelthorpe came from Beverley, East Yorkshire orginally to Brigg upon marrying Ursula Graynyer of Bigby in 1601. Work began on Scawby Hall in 1603. In 1620, he purchased the Baysgarth estate at Barton-upon-Humber, which became the family's principal residence in Lincolnshire until Sir John, the Sixth Baronet, sold it in 1792.
Richard had three sons, one of whom brought a baronetcy into the family.
The Nelthorpe baronetcy was a relatively brief phenomenon, lasting a fraction over two centuries.
Sir John Nelthorpe (1614-69)
The first baronet was Sir John (1614—69), the third son of Richard of Glandford Brigg. He became an eminent and highly-regarded lawyer practising at Grays Inn in London. In 1667 he bought Rutland House in the Charterhouse in Clerkenwell.
During the Civil War, he had served with some success in Cromwell’s New Model Army and eventually rose to become Cromwell’s Adjutant General. At one point he had a reponsibility for buying Crown land to help pay off the Army's pay arrears. Be that as it may, following the death of Cromwell in 1659, he became disaffected with parliament and the parliamentary cause and defected to the monarchists. This clearly did him no harm at all as events turned out.
The story resumes in 1666, when John Nelthorpe acquired a baronetcy — an honour which James I had devised in 1614 with the express purpose of raising cash. Originally, the asking price was £100,000 (in today’s money) with one third payable up front and the balance over two years.
Following his death in 1669, Sir John’s will appointed four trustees, directing them to build “a Schoolhouse with a dwelling house on Townsends Closes, adjoining Glamford Brigg”. The school, subsequently known as Brigg Grammar School, was to provide free schooling to the children of Brigg, Wrawby, Messingham, North Kelsey, Legsby, Ulceby, Fulesby, West Ashby, Scawby, Castlethorpe and Broughton.
The bequest consisted of a site in Brigg of some nine and a half acres of land known as Townsends Closes and provision for a Master and an Usher. It also included an area of land further east amounting to some 387 acres, which yielded an annual income estimated at £160 at the time of his death.
His will also hints at an unrequited love as the following indicates: “Item: that my kindness may not go down with me to the grave without leaving an impress thereof upon that vertuous lady Mistress Mary Langham daughter of Sir James Langham, knight, I give unto her my table diamond ring, my gold watch, my knife with the agatt haft set with diamonds, and a jewell of five hundred pounds value to be prepared and presented to her by mine Executors with this motto inamiled on the backside of it “Love’s Paraphrase” which I humbly pray her to accept and wear, as she shall see occasion, in memory of him who truly loved her. I also give her the one-and-thirty Angells which were given me by my father to be presented by his directions to her that should be my wife, and what other golde shall be in my purse with it at the time of my decease”.
Sir Goddard 2nd Bt (1630—1703)
Sir Goddard, 2nd baronet (1630—1703) of Clerkenwell was the second son of Sir John’s elder brother, Edward. In 1833 he had been described as “Sir John’s favourite nephew” who had set up as a merchant in London. This certainly explains why the remainder of the baronetcy was settled upon him rather than his older brother, Richard, or Sir John’s elder brother, Edward, both of whom were alive at Sir John’s death in 1669.
His wife was Mistress Dorothy, widow of Nicholas Poulteney of Misterton, Leicestershire and daughter of Hugh Henne of Rooksnest, Surrey. Their eldest child, Dorothy, died in infancy and was buried at Barton. All the others were probably born in Clerkenwell. Henry and John both pre-deceased him. Nevertheless, John had an extremely successul career as a merchant at Aleppo (in present-day Syria) but died in 1695/6, Edward (d.1727) lived in Holborn and Richard (1667—1730) became a goldsmith.
Most of Sir Goddard’s property transactions took place in London. Eastcheap appears to have been a particularly attractive. In 1663 the brother of his wife’s first husband — Sir William Poulteney —transferred a lease of land at St James’s to him. It was here, in 1670, that he built the St James’s Coffee House. The bricklayer was Thomas Pock and the carpenter Edward Karby. Three years later, he built a further three houses on the “St James’s in the Field” land.proposition since he made acquisitions there in 1657, 1659, 1662, 1675 and 1693.
In 1695, Sir Goddard bought a third part of the Manor of Bleesby and Sotby, to be paid for in installments, from Richard Radley. He was not a prompt payer. Negotiations had begun in 1693, but by 1695 Radley had assigned an instalment of the asking price to J Pope with further instalments to Thomas Toff and H Harvey. In 1698, Radley found himself in custody at Newark and “would find himself glad of twenty pounds” — which he received a month later. In 1699 he was glad of another twenty shillings at which time Sir Goddard acknowledged that thirty pounds were still owing. The final payment was eventually made on 4 October 1700.
Two years later Sir Goddard granted a lease on Little Down in Stepney to Henry Hudson who agreed to pay Sir Goddard “ten quarts of good cream” per year as part of the deal.
In his will of 1699, Sir Goddard settled on his grandson, Montague, his share of the Manor of Bleasby and Sotby, his property at Legsby, Callow and Barrow and the equivalent of £640,000 today to buy land in Lincolnshire. His wife “Dame Dorothy” received the houses in St James’s, all the Plate and Jewels they contained, and five hundred pounds.
Sir Montague, 3rd Baronet (1695-1722)
Sir Montague, 3rd baronet (1695—1722) was about seven years old when his grandfather died and he succeeded to the baronetcy. In 1716 he married Elizabeth, the only child of Henry Coxwell of Turk’s Dean in Gloucestershire, a very large landowner.
Elizabeth’s mother, the sister of Sir William Dodwell, and heiress to his estates, was a woman of property as well. Through this marriage, a considerable portion of these Gloucestershire estates passed into the hands of Sir Montague and his heirs. In 1718, their only child Henry (later the fourth baronet) was born. Sir Montague died on 21 February 1722 and was buried in St James’s Clerkenwell on 1 March. His personal estate, including outstanding debts, was valued at £2,271-13-0.
According to his will, dated dated 23 December 1721, he had a considerable financial interest in property not only in Gloucestershire but also in Lincolnshire, not to mention “ground and lands whereon Clarendon House stood or was thereabouts, now called Albermarle Ground and … two messuages at St James’s near His Majesty’s Royal Palace” in London.
Sir Henry, 4th Baronet (1717-28)
Sir Henry, 4th baronet was the first son to directly succeed his father in the title and was only four years old when his father died.
Under the terms of his father’s will, his trustees, Sir William Dodwell of Sevenhampton, Gloucestershire and Thomas Turner of the Middle Temple were empowered to spend the then huge sum of twelve thousand pounds to buy land in Lincolnshire.
As a minor, he lived with his uncle, Edward (d.1727), at Turville Heath throughout his short life. The property left to him was also managed by Edward and brought in annual rent of £178, made up as follows: Charterhouse Square £20 from John Wyatt, Eastcheap £20 from Samuel Faulkner, Eastcheap £20 from Christopher Ford, Eastcheap £14 from Luke Lewis and Suddington and £108 from Richard Gage. Upon his death he was buried in St James’s Clerkenwell on 25 March 1729. Sadly, no portrait of him is known to exist.
Henry’s uncle, Edward, would have been ideally placed to act as the young baronet’s guardian. Born the third son of Sir Goddard (the third baronet), it is very likely that Edward had inherited very considerable interests of his own in London.
A document from the Radcliffe family papers lodged at the Hertfordshire Archives, dating from 1713, shows an Edward Nelthorpe accepting insurance of a Mr Radcliffe’s goods on the Unity, captained by John Jacobs, bound from London to Amsterdam.
Sir Henry, 5th Baronet (1697-1746)
The next baronet, Sir Henry, was Sir Monatgue’s younger brother and lived principally at Barton (probably at Baysgarth House). He also had a town house in Red Lion Square, London. He married his first wife, Joan, daughter of Thomas Seaman of St Andrew in Suffolk, on 18 August 1726. The association with the Seaman family dates back to 1720 when Henry was a beneficiary under the will of Thomas Seaman of Heigham, Norwich. This probably included a sizeable quantity of books which are to be found in the library at Scawby, bearing Thomas Seaman’s bookplate — his coat of arms being a crescent on a wavy field with a ship for a crest. There is a record of fourteen shillings being paid for the books to be shipped by wherry from Norwich to Barton.
There is a pair of portraits of the couple, at the Hall, by Peter van Bleeck which show Sir Henry in what appears to be his older brother’s blue coat and his wife as a shy, almost coy, and sickly-looking woman.
Like his predecessors, Sir Henry was an active and avid buyer of property, mainly in the immediate vicinity of Barton — although he did make purchases at Caistor, Cabourn, Nettleton and Owmby as well.
The death of the first Lady Nelthorpe occurred in around 1739. In 1740, Sir Henry settled his half share of Legsby Manor on a second cousin, the widow Mrs Elizabeth Woolmer, whom he married later that year.
A formidable lady, she was the daughter of the Rev Richard Branston of Redbourne and Gainsborough who had married Mary, daughter of Edward Nelthorpe of Scawby (d.1692). There is a large portrait of the couple in the Drawing Room, dated circa 1745, which is held to be the first commissioned work by George Stubbs ARA.
The following year, 1741, Sir Henry was appointed High Sheriff of Lincolnshire. In 1742, their first daughter, Charlotte, was born, followed a year later by Catherine. Finally, their last child, John, was born in 1744.
Sir Henry died and was buried at Barton on 4 July 1746. He died intestate and his personal estate was valued at £12,877-7-6. After his death Lady Elizabeth took over the running of his estates on behalf of her underage son.
In 1756 she commissioned Stubbs to paint Sir John as a boy — a striking and perceptive portrait. Whilst completing this task, he was also busy dissecting and producing anatomical studies of a succession of horse cadavers, which would form the basis of his celebrated The Anatomy of the Horse.
Sir John 6th Bt (1744-99)
Sir John, the sixth baronet, was Sir Henry’s youngest child and only surviving son by his second wife, Elizabeth.
During August and September 1754, the young Sir John visited London with his elder sister Charlotte and tutor. He kept a journal of the visit which described, for his mother’s benefit, the sights and experiences of London life as seen through the eyes of a “Little White-headed Knight and Baronet”.
During the four day journey to town, he met Lady Coventry, the elder of the famous and beautiful Gunning sisters who was twenty-one at the time. On his arrival in London, he met Mrs George Pitt the celebrated beauty — “handsomer than Lady Coventry” and was much pleased with the city’s sights. These included the Royal Exchange, the Bank of England, South Sea House, the Thames, the lions in the Tower, St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
The diary he wrote for his mother includes a highly entertaining description of his visit to Court and can be found in the guide book.
Even at this young age he had firm views as his observations on other sights demonstrate — St James’s Park (“saw a vast multitude of well-dressed awkward People”) and Westminster Hall (“never saw so large or so dirty a Room in my Life”), not to mention the mad black at Bethlehem (Bedlam). Images of his boyishness shine through, such as shooting Westminster Bridge on his was to Vaux Hall, where he “holoo’d under its Central Arch; walking in the park he “pin’d for Plumb Cake” and “saw a Boy play at Peg Top, which was new to me — I wish I had one”.
Between 11 February 1757 and 1763 Sir John was a pupil at Eton College and, by 1766, had moved onto Oxford where he studied at Trinity College. When he came of age in 1765, he took control of his substantial inheritance including property in St James’s, Charterhouse Square, four messages in St Botolph Aldgate and in St Leonard Eastcheap — not to mention considerable holdings in northern Lincolnshire and at Beverley.
In 1767, Sir John served a term as High Sheriff of Lincolnshire and three years later was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant. On 1 January 1772, he married Miss Anna Maria Charlotte Willoughby (b. 1748) of Redbourne.
Her father, Andrew, had been Secretary to Prince Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, with whom he had lived at Chateau Trompette where Anna was born. The Prince was her godfather — some suggest the “god” might be omitted. Her mother was a sister of the Rev Robert Carter-Thelwall with whom she went to live at Redbourne Hall when her parents died in 1760.
As a result of this marriage, Sir John became entitled through the marriage settlement “to a personal estate of £8,000 upwards”. In consequence, he made a settlement of Algakirk and other property upon Roger and Robert Carter in trust for his wife. The couple had five children: Anna Maria Charlotte (1772—1831), Henry (1773—1830), Frances Mary (b.1775), John (1776—1824) and Montague (b.1783),who died within a few months.
By now, the Nelthorpe family had been major Lincolnshire landowners for almost two centuries. Their wealth had also allowed them to acquire valuable properties in London and the home counties as well.
In 1791, he bought South Ferriby Manor from Sir John Pennyman Bart, William Colbourne and Robert Burton for £4,544 to add to the parcels he had acquired thereabouts during the previous decade. He continued to increase his holdings at South Ferriby over the next couple of years. Under the Enclosure Act, he received a nominal 1,075 acres, but this dropped to a fraction under 900 acres when measured.
From 1777 to 1794, the family’s London house was in Sackville Street and there is an amusing entry for 22 September 1785 in his accounts book: “The Drunken Cook for her Half yrs Wages and Fly expenses £12-1-6”. In the same year, Sir John bought a flute and case for £4-16-6.
On 17 September 1789 he paid Mr Harrison “for boarding with me three months and making some sweetmeats and sweet pickles, two guineas”. In 1795, Sir John moved his London residence to a house in Berkeley Square, which he leased from the Hon Henry and George Watson. He spent £804 putting the new house in order and bought a cuckoo clock.
It seems that Sir John was content to lead a solid, unpretentious and comfortable life as a country squire, which is not to say that he was in any way lacking in culture and sophistication. He continued to patronise George Stubbs throughout his life, as his mother had done before him, and subscribed for many etchings and engravings including a copy of Stubbs’ celebrated book of engravings: The Anatomy of the Horse. In 1776, he commissioned George Stubbs to paint a portrait of himself, at the age of thirty-one, out shooting with his dogs, Hector and Tinker, in Barton Field.
Five years later in 1789, he commissioned Thomas Lawrence ARA (later Sir Thomas PRA) to paint portraits of himself (above), Lady Nelthorpe and his niece, Charlotte Carter Thelwall (later Lady Charlotte Beauclerk). These demonstrate “the sturdy dignity of Sir John, the graciousness of his wife and the delicate beauty of their niece”.
On 9 January 1788, Edward Nelthorpe, the last of the oldest branch of the family, died a bachelor during his annual Christmas visit to Barton. As a result, Scawby Hall and Manor passed into Sir John’s hands and prompted the sale, in 1792, of Baysgarth, which had, by then, been in the family since 1620.
There is no firm date known for Sir John’s removal from Barton to Scawby, but we do know that he was spending a large amount of money at Scawby at this time. He immediately set about remodelling the east and south elevations to make the house appear more fashionable and less daunting. During 1790/1, William Emes, a well-known landscape architect of the period, was commissioned to supervise the creation of two interlinked lakes and a neo-Roman bridge within the home park. There is a record of Thomas Clarke and Thomas James receiving £30-7-4 for “Work done at the Bridge” on 22 September 1790. The bridge was demolished in the mid-1970s to make way for the M180 motorway which sliced through part of the park.
By 1798, in the wake of the French Revolution, there was a very real fear that England faced a possible invasion by the French under the leadership of Napoleon. Sir John’s response was to establish the “Brigg Independent Volunteer Armed Association” comprising a force of eighty or more, with himself as Captain Commandant.
The Association’s members were divided into four companies with an additional five pikemen who, apparently, were not to be trusted with muskets. Sir John also ordered a standard, at a cost of fifteen guineas, comprising the Union Jack with the Nelthorpe Arms and Crest surmounted by the Royal Crown in the centre. Presentation of the Colours was celebrated at the White Lion in Brigg on 18 April 1799 with 122 dinners and suppers costing four shillings each. Port, sherry, lemons, sugar and broken glasses cost a further £1-10-0. Cleaning, ale, cards, servants and punchbowls brought the total for the whole event to £76, of which the Captain Commandant paid £68-10-0. It was only in 1813 that the Association was disbanded.
At the age of fifty-five, Sir John died at his Berkeley Square house on 14 June 1799 and was buried at Scawby on 28 June. The funeral expenses amounted to £728-14-2 of which £88-16-6 was spent on bringing the body to Scawby.
In his Will, Sir John directed that, in addition to her marriage settlement, Lady Nelthorpe was to receive ten thousand pounds, an annuity of six hundred pounds and the lease of the house in Berkeley Square. Soon after his death, Lady Nelthorpe let this house to the Hon Henry Wellesley and moved to Aberford in Yorkshire.
Sir Henry 7th Bt (1773-1830)
The seventh baronet was born at Barton and was educated for a time, between 1782 and 1785, at John Cormick’s school at Putney. Whilst there he enjoyed no holidays and had to make do with sixpence a week pocket money. In 1786 he appeared on the register of Rugby School (as did his younger brother John), but then went on to Eton followed by Trinity College, Cambridge.
There is a charming watercolour, dating from around 1796, by George Uppleby of Barrow Hall, that shows him striding purposefully towards the peak of Snowdon.
In response to the perceived threat of a Napoleonic invasion sweeping the country around the turn of the century, Sir Henry served with the North Lincolnshire Supplementary Militia and reached the rank of major. In early 1799, he became a Deputy Lieutenant of Lincolnshire and four years later was appointed High Sheriff. In a letter to Lady Nelthorpe, John Wilbar “extolled his appearance and demeanour at the Lincoln Assizes”.
An avid racing man, Sir Henry enjoyed particular success with “Everlasting”, a bay gelding by “Luck’s All” out of a mare by “Mercury”. Between 1815 and 1818 Everlasting ran in thirty-one races, winning six times including three gold cups: the Pontefract in 1815, the Stamford in 1816 and the Lincoln in 1817. He ran over distances between one-and-a-half to four miles on the flat: several of the races being run in heats on the same day. He was second eight times, third four times, fourth once and bolted (and was disqualified) four times. This last generally happened when he was run on a second consecutive day! From evidence of racing calendars of the period, it seems Sir Henry was friendly with a certain Colonel John King and that both frequently ran horses in the same races.
A painting of Everlasting, perhaps by George Robertson, is to be found at Scawby Hall.
In 1807, following the enclosure of South Ferriby three years earlier, Sir Henry sold some property there and renewed the lease of the Berkeley Square house to the Hon Henry Wellesley.
In 1811, Sir Henry married Margaret Duthie, a daughter of James Duthie of Sterlingshire but, unfortunately, there is no known portrait of this strong-minded lady — and there were no children.
By 1826 domestic disharmony had broken out at Scawby Hall, resulting in Lady Nelthorpe suddenly leaving. From correspondence of the period, it would seem that Lady Anderson (Sir Henry’s younger sister) and her husband, Sir Charles played a large part. The family solicitor, Mr Nicholson, at one point ventured the opinion that “the doors of Scawby Hall must be shut upon her”.
In a letter written at Scawby Hall at four o’clock one Monday morning, Lady Anderson wrote to her husband that her brother [Sir Henry] had quite decided that her Ladyship should not return. Indeed, she had told her brother that if Lady Nelthorpe came back “it would be impossible for any of the female part of the family could ever enter the house”.
She went on to quote a letter from Lady Nelthorpe to Plessy, obviously an upper servant, headed “Do not let Lady Anderson know that I have written”. She began: “I am so far on my lonely journey, and a more miserable day I have never passed”. She accused her sister-in-law of “having taken complete possession, which was a genteel way of bidding me walk out of the house”. She said she had left because she saw that it made Sir Henry nervous whenever she came into the room.
Lady Anderson went on to report a conversation she had recently had with her brother, who had said that “Lady Nelthorpe’s horrid temper, which made her like a Fury. If a gown did not please her, she might tear it all to bits and abuse the dressmaker like a Bedlamite”.
Throughout the whole saga, the servants seem to have been models of discretion. In the event, a deed of separation was drawn up and an allowance was settled, after which Sir Henry made off to Clee to recover his health and peace of mind.
The final act unfolded in early 1830 when Lady Nelthorpe returned to Scawby on hearing that Sir Henry was ill. She was shocked to find him much changed and could not believe that every spark of affection was extinct.
She wanted to be allowed to nurse him and became convinced that had there been no Sir Charles and Lady Anderson, she would have made her peace with her husband. Indeed, she issued the threat that “the charitable and religious Baronet shall find me a thorn in his side. Sir C and Lady A think no one good or honest but themselves. This is charity and religion!”
No doubt exhausted by all the shenanigans, Sir Henry died on 12 May 1830 and was buried in Scawby Church. In his will of 1826, he had left Lady Nelthorpe £2,000, his butler George Park £500 and John Arliss and his wife Margaret an annuity of £50. The rest of his estate was left to his nephew John, a boy of fifteen, who succeeded him as the 8th and last baronet.
Lady Nelthorpe died in 1851 and was buried at Blackheath Church, where her memorial tablet reads “Sacred to the Memory of Dame Margaret Nelthorpe, Widow of Sir Henry Nelthorpe Bt of Scawby, Lincolnshire”.
Sir John 8th Bt (1814-1865)
Born at South Ferriby on 27 September 1814, the son of John Nelthorpe of Ferriby, John was still at Eton when his uncle died. On reaching twenty-one, the young Sir John received a Commission as Cornet in the North Lincolnshire Yeomanry.
On 24 May 1838, Sir John married his first cousin, Fanny Maria the daughter of the Rev Sir Charles and Lady Anderson who had caused such ructions in his uncle’s household. In the same year he bought a number of striking pictures including one by Melchior de Hondecoeter of geese, ducks and a hoopoe.
He now set about his lifetime’s work of improving the estate. He bought beech, birch, box, elm, holly, larch, lime, mountain ash, oak, poplar, Scotch fir, silver fir, Spanish chestnut, spruce, sycamore, witch elm and yew. It is these planting that provide the basis of the mature woodlands throughout the Scawby Estate today.
Sir John also established brickyards at Twigmoor, South Ferriby and Legsby. Indeed, there had been a tradition of brick manufacture on the south bank of the Humber, dating back to the middle of the 18th century.
He set in motion a building programme of “model” dwellings based on a standard design the estate’s workforce, many examples of which can be seen in the village, characterised by the estate’s familiar colour scheme of deep green and cream.
Like his grandfather before him, Sir John was meticulous in recording his business transactions. A huge raft of documents still exist, ranging from printed letting agreements between 1838 and 1872 to receipts for tenants’ dinners for the period 1838 to 1861, which took place annually at different inns throughout the region.
In 1839, the upper fish pond at Scawby was cleaned, a cascade costing £202-7-2 and a new boat was bought for £12-5-0. Three years later, the lodge at the Scawby Brook entrance was built for £524-7-6. The fencing walls amounted to a further £60-9-7.
In 1842 Sir John was appointed High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, but 1857 saw him fined twenty-five pounds for failing to attend as a Grand Juryman at Lincoln Assizes.
Sir John died at Scawby on 22 November 1865 and was buried seven days later. As he had no children, the Nelthorpe name, in this branch, came to an end.
His nephew, Robert Nassau Sutton-Nelthorpe, remembers him as slight and distinguished in appearance with short Dundreary whiskers, and that he shot and rode well.
In short, his industrious nature successfuly mirrored the advent of the Victorian era.
Inevitably there is an overlap between one generation and the next and one monarch and the next. This period in the family’s history broadly falls within Queen Victoria’s 64 year reign. When Sir John (8th baronet) was born in 1814 George III had been on the throne for 54 years. He was followed by George IV (1820—1830) and William IV (1830—1837. Thus, at Queen Victoria’s accession, Sir John was only 23 years old.
The story of Sir John, 8th baronet, is dealt in detail above . With his death, the baronetcy ceased and the Nelthorpe name went into abeyance — to be revived in a slightly different form by Robert Nassau some 19 years later.
The Estate now passed into the hands of the Rev Robert Sutton, who had married Sir John’s sister, Charlotte, in 1847. In very quick succession, the couple produced eight children. From the Rev Robert’s point of view, life was sweet. Indeed, he began to entertain feelings of grandeur. In 1867, he commissioned an elaborate set of plans from E F Lawland & Sons, a firm of architects from Northampton, to remodel Scawby Hall quite dramatically. The net result bore a remarkable similarity to Sir George Gilbert Scott’s St Pancras Station in London. The plans were not acted upon.
For the first time in over two and a half centuries, Scawby Hall was full of Nelthorpes as well as a large staff to cater for their needs.
The Rev Robert died in 1885 to be succeeded by his third born — Robert Nassau Sutton.
By the close of the nineteenth century, the Rev Robert Sutton had been dead fifteen years and his eldest son, Robert Nassau, had installed himself and his family at Scawby.
In the years 1898/9, Robert Nassau let Scawby Hall to James Lees-Milne and his family, having made his acquaintance whilst serving in India. Judging from the diary entries and photographs that survive, it was a comfortable life taken up with the traditional country pursuits of hunting, shooting and fishing, punctuated by luncheons, masquerades and dinner parties at a time when the British Empire was still a reality.
During the last decade or so of the 19th century, a relatively large “inside” and “outside” staff was required to look after the Nelthorpe family consisting of Robert Nassau, the Hon Dulcibella and their four children.
Aside from the butler, cook, housekeeper, footman and maids, there were a number of grooms to look after the horses and, in its heyday, 12 gardeners to manage the kitchen garden and grounds. At this time, the Hall was largely self-sufficient in produce, dairy products, meat and flowers.
Whilst many of the staff lived in the house itself or the adjacent range of buildings, Robert Nassau built a substantial number of cottages in and around Scawby in a distinctive style, with a clealry identifiable colour scheme. This colour scheme of dark green and cream for the woodwork persists right up to the present day.