For whom the bell tolls

Entrance Hall Bell Pull

Entrance Hall Bell Pull

“When visitors were expected it was customary for someone to wait in the Hall and when the carriage turned in the front gates to ring that bell to warn all the staff concerned, it then used to ring in the passage with all the other bells.”
C. P. Whitehead, Footman to Mr T. S. Pearson Gregory, 1914-17.

For Mr Whitehead, Harlaxton Manor was always a special place even though he only worked here for a few years in his early 20’s, as this is where he met his future wife. He recounts in a letter to Rev. Swindells SJ dated 1963, his delight in visiting the Manor some 50 years later during Jesuit ownership, and in particular of the feeling of role reversal as he partook of a meal in the Dining Room, where before he had only served them. He also shared memories of the daily morning prayers, presumably for all staff, which took place in the Marble (Great) Hall.

Today, we still wait in the Entrance Hall to greet the coaches bringing our faculty and students as they turn into the Front Circle, but staff are alerted by telephone not a bell pull.

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The New Terrace Garden

The new Terrace Garden is starting to take shape, restored and named in honor of Lady Benton Jones, OBE, in recognition of her loyal friendship and exemplary service to Harlaxton College as Chair of the Advisory Council (1985-2015).

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Manor plans found

A set of around 150 original building plans, diagrams, sketches and stone masons’ drawings were rediscovered in the attics of Harlaxton Manor in April 2017. These appear to be actual working plans used during construction of the Manor and show the influence of Gregory Gregory throughout. The few dates which are present suggest these plans relate to the whole period of construction from Salvin in 1830s to Burn in 1850s. There is evidence that they had been discovered in “The Plaster Room” above the original Brewery (kitchen today) in 1980 and then somehow got relocated to another attic and forgotten. Unfortunately the plans are mostly in an extremely fragile and fragmented state. Deterioration has been halted by storage in archival pockets to allow cataloguing and photographing before relocating to a more suitable location such as Lincolnshire Archives.

Catalogue list

Photographs of some of the plans

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Lady in the attic

This painting was recently discovered in the Manor attics. The sitter and artist are unknown, however a Curator from the Victoria & Albert Museum has analysed her costume.

“From the sitter’s clothing I would suggest that this painting could date to around 1860-1870. The woman’s black cloak is very typical of mourning attire worn in the high Victorian period, especially the crape material, a type of silk with a peculiar crimped appearance produced by heat. Crape became particularly associated with mourning clothes of this period.

The high neck with the bow is also points to the clothing dating to this period. Although the white of the silk could indicate that the sitter is entering the later stages of mourning, when lighter colours were incorporated into the outfit.”

Further reading:
Buck, A. ‘The Trap Re-Baited, Mourning Dress 1860-1890’. The Proceedings of the Costume Society Spring Conference, 1968, pp. 32-37.

Assistant Curator, Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion,
Victoria and Albert Museum

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Manor Love

In 1995 a set of 17 folded love notes tied with string, fondly known as The Harlaxton Letters, were discovered behind a skirting board on the Gold Staircase. The writer (signed GG?) asks Alice to meet him repeatedly in Blackie’s stall. Was the writer Gregory Gregory? Was Alice a maid at the Manor? Was Blackie a horse in the Carriage House?

Upon analysing the paper, handwriting and staining, the Conservation Department at Lincolnshire Archives felt the letters were a hoax. But as today is Valentine’s Day there is romance in the air around the Manor.

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From a family album

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These beautiful images have been sent to us by Rear Admiral Michael Gregory, OBE, Lord-Lieutenant for Dunbartonshire. Michael Gregory is a descendent of Francis Gregory, brother of George Gregory (bapt. 1638, d. 1688). Francis and George were sons of John Gregory (d. 1694) and Elizabeth Alton (1613-75), whose marriage is commemorated in the Great Hall stained glass window. George Gregory married Susanna Lister (d. 1713) starting the line who inherit Harlaxton Manor ending with Gregory Gregory. Michael kindly scanned these images from his Victorian family album dating from when George Gregory owned the current Manor after Gregory Gregory’s death, 1854-60.

Confused by all these George Gregorys? Have a look at the Gregory family tree prepared by Dr Mark Valenzuela.

[All images by courtesy Michael Gregory. Please do not use for other purposes.]

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Postcards of the Manor

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Recent acquisition for the Manor Archives, a set of 6 postcards. Note the people in Victorian dress enjoying the gardens (no. 3), people in shirt sleeves on left in no. 4, the lone figure standing in the gateway of no. 5 and the shadow cast of someone with a bicycle. No. 6 is interesting – two men either side of the gateway with bicycles, one on right smoking, another man on right appears to be in a wheelchair, and two females behind the closed gate, probably from the Lodge.

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Gold Room cherub

Detail of Gold Room ceiling cherub

Detail of Gold Room ceiling cherub

According to Pevsner the Gold Room ceiling is possibly the work of John Gregory Crace (1809-1889), thought to have been a distant relation of Mr. Gregory’s, and fourth generation of a very notable family of decorators. This is a cherub detail scanned from a transparency found in the Manor archives.

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Old Manor destroyed

“We understand that fine old ruin “Harlaxton Manor House,” is fast being destroyed. We are sorry always to see these most picturesque and in many respects not to be improved old mansion pass away. They are part of the links that bind us to the past, and prove that the Englishman of long ago was much more a man of taste, and consequently more of a truly civilized man than we were taught in our early days to consider him. What is our modern domestic architecture, when not paltry frippery, but a not often very successful imitation of the original ideas of the old architects?”

Grantham Journal, Saturday 18 July, 1857

This refers to the old manor house in the village of Harlaxton.

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Gregory Williams at Christ Church, Oxford, 1805-7

We have recently discovered that Gregory Gregory (then known as Gregory Williams) attended Christ Church College, Oxford between 1805 and 1807, aged 19 to 21. His studies included Classical texts with some mathematics, algebra, rhetoric, ethics, and scripture. He went down without achieving a degree, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was not a scholar. Many young men came up to Oxford almost as a finishing school or a rite of passage. Many, such as Gregory, were destined to run family estates or even (particularly later in the C19) family businesses, and left around their 21st birthdays to carry on their responsibilities.

Thanks to the Archivist at Christ Church for providing us with a transcript for Gregory Williams.

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