Langar Hall ~ A Microcosm of English History



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The economic adjustments of the 20th century have led to the loss of many family homes, not always with the results the social engineers hoped. Some of Britain's finest buildings fell into ruins when their owners could neither continue to pay their maintenance costs nor transfer a capital sum to the National Trust sufficient to persuade the Trust to take possession. Other houses have survived as schools and hospitals, some as foundations to be expanded into hotels, and some as "country house hotels" ~ attempts to marry the joys of a country house stay with the convenience of a modern hotel.

Some enterprises in this latter category have been extremely successful, and, as at Langar Hall, especially so when the chatelaine is of the family for whom it was once a private home.

Langar enters history via the Domesday Book, recorded there as being held by William Peverel, and as having two mills and a church. William was Governor of Nottingham Castle and Langar was a small part of the extensive dominion called the Honour of Peverell, but little else is known of him. He has always been a mystery to historians, and from Tudor times his vast possessions (100 lordships in Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire, 14 in Derbyshire, and another 20 scattered through six other counties) have been explained by his being a bastard son of the Conqueror (for which there is no evidence at all), but the huge size of the lands granted to him is in itself a clue.
Peverel
The Conqueror rewarded well those Flemings who had formed one-fifth of his victorious army, and their lands formed a fairly cohesive bloc in the East Midlands, particularly in the counties of Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. (The "Flemish" territories ~ which we might term "Greater Flanders" ~ may then be considered to include a large piece of Northeastern France as well as a substantial part of Belgium.) Beryl Platts has suggested that Peverel is a simple corruption of Pavel, which is Paul or Pol, and the arms borne by members of the Peverel family in England do tend to support this. (In the Flemings' homeland of the Peverels the County of St Pol was allied by marriage to the County of Boulogne and the County of Guines, an important indicator.)
These were early days for heraldry and the laws we take for granted now were then in their formative stages. The William who held Langar in 1086, when Domesday was compiled, would have known that the Boulogne colours of red and gold were being used on the flags of some related families as quarterings, but we have no proof that he used a permanent, unchanged device on his own flags, and if he had it might have been in the colours of St Pol, blue and gold. The County of Guines used blue and silver; the County of Flanders used black and gold. William's son, also William, who succeeded him in 1113/14, is believed to have borne the arms illustrated above, first as quarterly 1 and 4 Gules, 2 and 3 vairy Or and Vert, and later with the silver rampant lion (strongly associated at that time primarily with Flanders) overall. The red and gold hint at the Boulogne connection, and the Vair of the second and third quarters hint at Guines whose colours of blue and white were also borne vairy. It is possible that the younger William bore also the St Pol arms of Azure 3 garbs Or, for when his estates were promised by Henry II to the Earl of Chester, the King, it has been said, passed with them the arms of St Pol (unlawfully by the custom of later years, and inexplicably unless William had a connection with them).
The Earl of Chester died, poisoned, it was rumoured, by William, before he took possession of the Honour of Peverel, but the Azure 3 garbs Or (a garb is a wheatsheaf) of St Pol became the device of subsequent Earls of Chester. (A single garb from St Pol was later the charge on the shield of the Grosvenor family, as described below.)
William, as a Fleming, had naturally supported King Stephen in his war against the Empress Maud (Matilda), and it was more probably for this reason that Maud's son, King Henry II, moved against him soon after he received the crown, rather than for him having poisoned the Earl of Chester. William anticipated defeat by retiring to a monastery, where he was left in peace. His heir was his daughter Margaret, who married Robert de Ferrieres, 2nd Earl of Derby, but Henry seized the Honour of Peverel and it remained in the possession of the Crown for nearly half a century, despite the Earl of Derby's lawful right to it.
Ferrieres
Later this was borne with a bordure Argent charged with eight horseshoes Sable
In 1189 King Richard I gave to his youngest brother, the future King John, all the lands that William Peverel had held, and ten years later, when John ascended the throne, the Earl of Derby renounced all his own rights as heir to those lands. Langar, with the ownership of all John's other lands and titles, was merged with the Crown.
The manor was held by John's son, Henry III, until granted to Sir Gerard de Rodes (who bore the arms shown here on the left without the baton Gules). Sir Gerard's son, John de Rodes (who, according to the Dering Roll, bore his father's arms with the baton Rouge), granted Langar to Sir Robert de Tibetot circa 1285. Robert was a seasoned warrior, a Crusader, Governor of Nottingham, Carmarthen and Cardigan. As Lieutenant for Wales he defeated Rees ap Meredeth in battle and took him to York to be executed. He died circa 1298
Richard I
de Rodes
Sir Pain de Tibetot, 1st Baron Tibetot, his son by Eve de Chaworth, was Governor of Northampton Castle and fought several times in Scotland, where he eventually fell, killed at Bannockburn in 1314. He married Agnes, daughter of William de Ros of Hamlake, 2nd Baron Ros.
de Tibetot
Sir John de Tibetot, 2nd Baron, was Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed, married Margaret, daughter of Bartholomew, 2nd Baron Badlesmere, and died in 1367. (Lord Badlesmere, a powerful warrior and ambitious politician, was on the losing side at Boroughbridge in the battle against Edward II and was hanged.)
de Ros of Hamlake
Badlesmere
Sir Robert de Tibetot, 3rd Baron, married Margaret, daughter of William, 2nd Baron Deincourt, and died in 1372 leaving Margaret, eldest of three co-heiress daughters, who took Langar in her marriage to Sir Roger, 2nd Baron Scrope of Bolton. Her husband's father was the celebrated Sir Richard le Scrope, 1st Baron, whose right to the arms shown here on the left was contested by Sir Robert Grosvenor (who lost and henceforth bore Azure a garb Or, as mentioned earlier).
Scrope
At this time the Scropes were among the most powerful families in the realm (this being not entirely unconnected with the reasons Grosvenor lost his case, although he probably should have lost it anyway). Roger's father, the 1st Baron, had fought in every major battle of his adult life, and had held several important offices. When his son and his nephew both lost their heads to Henry IV (William, Earl of Wiltshire, even more powerful than he, and Richard, Archbishop of York), he kept his, recognised by the King as "a loyal knight". Roger stayed clear of trouble and on his elder brother's death became heir to his father.
The next nine generations continued the family tradition as both warriors and politicians, their history being the history of England (and, in respect of their battles, of France and Scotland too). But the last Lord Scrope, Emanuel (created Earl of Sunderland), who died in 1630 and is buried, as are his parents, in the church ("the cathedral of the Vale" next to the house), had no children by his wife Elizabeth, the daughter of John Manners, 4th Earl of Rutland. He did, however, find time to father four bastards onto Martha James, a servant, the daughter of a tailor. The youngest of these, Annabella, inherited Langar and was granted in 1663 the precedence and privileges of the legitimate daughter of an earl
Annabella married John Grubham Howe, Member of Parliament for Gloucestershire, and had a son, Sir Scrope Howe, who in 1701 was created Viscount Howe, having married first in 1672 Anne, daughter of John Manners, 8th Earl of Rutland, and 2nd, in 1698, Juliana, daughter of 3rd Baron Alington of Killard. The 1st Viscount's grandson, Richard, the Admiral Howe of immortal fame, was in 1788 created Earl Howe and Baron Howe of Langar. His daughter, Sophia Charlotte, Baroness Howe of Langar in her own right, married Penn Assheton Curzon. Unfortunately she and her husband stripped Langar Hall of its treasures and broke up the estate. The house was demolished and a smaller one, incorporating part of one of the wings, built on its site in 1835.
Howe
In 1860 the daughter of the composer Henry Farmer, Anne, left her husband, Thomas Bayley, a rich coal owner who was Member of Parliament for Chesterfield, and bought the new Langar Hall. She and Thomas were eventually reconciled and are buried together in the church. Muriel, their elder daughter, bought out her siblings' interest in the estate and married Percy Huskinson, son of William Lambe Huskinson of Epperstone Manor, and it is their granddaughter Imogen who chose to open Langar Hall to a history-loving public.
In relating these brief details of the thousand years of one manor I have sought to illustrate how so much of our island history can be mirrored in a single place. At Langar, in the beautiful Vale of Belvoir (pronounced Beevor), lurk ghostly memories of Duke William's conquest of England, the Stephen-Matilda warfare (when, we are told, "God and his angels slept"), Simon de Montfort's struggle against Henry III, the strife of Edward II's reign, the wars against France and Scotland, the bloody conflict of the Roses which coincided with the arrival of the Scropes at Langar, then the centuries when England's history was inseparable from the history of the Scropes, and finally the great Admiral, hero of "the glorious first of June", with England still fighting the French.



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