“7 bedroom House for sale in Lutterworth 950000£……..Approached via a private gated driveway, this magnificent Georgian hall benefits from an abundance of period features. Claybrooke Hall is a magnificent Grade II listed hall and offers the opportunity to reside in a truly unique historic home, with the benefit of a central village location and an ample plot … Claybrooke Hall was where my Grandmother Sarah Jane Sleath worked prior to her marriage to John Thomas Perkins in 1901.
The pictures showing the interior are wonderful….and I could see the Parlor where my grandmother worked as a Parlor Maid and the kitchen where her friend worked as a cook. Bet these rooms didn’t look like that back in 1901.
And look at the gorgeous bedroom….a few too many flowers but all that could be changed.
Now 114 years since my Grandmother worked there, this Old Hall is once again up for sale. I would wager it has many stories to tell about the occupants, if only it could talk. Well it can’t, but perhaps I could fill in the few details I have discovered about the place.
Claybrooke Hall was built in 1718 by Thomas Byrd, a local landowner and Justice of the Peace and in 1765 it was sold to Cluer Dicey as a “gentleman’s house”. The conveyance of Claybrooke Hall and lands from George Byrd to Cluer Dicey is dated 11 Oct 1767…(From Humphry’s Family Tree Page). When he died in 1775, his will described him as of “Little Claybrooke in the county of Leicester, Esq.” He also had two farms in Little Claybrooke and property in Stoke Newington, London.
On the 1841 Census, Thomas Edward and Anne Mary Dicey were living there with their 4 sons including Albert Venn Dicey who was born 4 February 1835 at Claybrook Hall in Leicestershire, England. He was the third son of Thomas Edward Dicey, a leading journalist of his time, by his wife Anne Mary, younger daughter of James Stephen, master in chancery. Albert was a British jurist and constitutional theorist. He is most widely known as the author of An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885). The principles it expounds are considered part of the uncodified British Constitution. He was a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford and became Vinerian Professor of Law and a leading constitutional scholar of his day. Dicey popularised the phrase “Rule of law”, although its use goes back to the 17th century.” (from Wikipedia)
On the 1861 Census, Mary Douglas, wife of H. Sholto Douglas, captain in Her Majesty’s 42nd Regimen and their 8 children were living in the Hall. The Captain was away on Military duties, however he obviously returned home frequently as he had 6 children born at the Hall between 1854 and 1859. At this time a number of Domestic Servants were required to keep things running….Butler, Groom, Cook, Kitchen Maid, Parlor Maid and 3 Nurses to care for all the young children.
On the 1881 Census, Mary Emily Simpson formerly of Oswaldkirk, Yorkshire and her sisters Emma and Louisa had taken over the hall. Mary had worked with her father , the Reverend Francis Simpson, to improve the lot of the farm lads of Boynton and Carnaby. She gave us an account of her labours in a book, “Ploughing and Sowing: or the Annals of an Evening School in a Yorkshire Village and the work that grew out of it- By a Clergyman’s Daughter”. According to her Obituary, she carried on her charitable work once she moved to Claybrooke Hall where she opened a Convalescent Home in connection with the Leicester Infirmary. Her twin sister Emma, who was ill at the time of Mary’s death, died not long after. At this time, the Hall had 4 general Female Domestic Servants and a Cook. Louisa, the remaining sister continued to live in the Hall, and on the 1891 Census only the Housekeeper, Sarah Robinson and the Parlor Maid Bessie Tyres were listed. It is likely that Louisa was away visiting friends when the census took place.
My Grandmother Sarah Jane Sleath had taken up the position of Parlor Maid, by the time the 1901 Census was taken. Louisa had a companion Charlotte Hillyer and a full staff in residence. These included Bessie Tyres, now the nurse attendant, Sarah Haywood, a housemaid, Ethel Crisp, a kitchen maid, Janet Taylor, a nurse and Hetty Williams, the cook.
In the late 19th Century, British families were in the world of “Upstairs Downstairs”. Each family either had a member that was in service or the household included at least one maid. By the end of the Victorian era, likely one third of all women had been a domestic worker at some point in their lives. In 1881, there were over 1.2 million females in Domestic Service and at least 50% were under the age of 20. Interesting to note that when my Grandmother was at the Hall, the younger Housemaid and Kitchen Maid were from the local area, whereas the nurse, nurse attendant and the parlor maid were from neighbouring counties. It would be interesting to discover how they came to be employed at the Hall. Had they responded to an advertisement, attended a Hiring Fair or heard of the vacancy from a friend or other relative? Claybrooke Hall was no Downton Abbey, but likely the same things occurred just on a smaller scale. These young women may have been kept busy with all the household chores, but they must have had the odd day off…how else were they to meet prospective husbands. Sarah Jane may have met John Thomas Perkins, the village Blacksmith, when he came to the Hall to carry out some work. Tradespeople and craftsmen would have used the back door and it would have been answered by one of the maids who would have supervised them in their duties.
The following is an extract from correspondence between myself and a resident of Claybrooke Parva today. It provides some light on the duties of a Blacksmith. Mr. Jenkins wrote “My home has a stable block that was erected in 1891 and the ironwork was made by J Perkins of Claybrooke Magna – see attached photo & note that the village had no ‘e’ on end. The number 1 under the crown indicates the quality of the iron as there were different qualities used for things like hinges to pots & pans etc. 1 is the lowest quality. I have a sheet on this somewhere but can’t find it. It would seem that this would have been John Perkins. I have not studied the family tree but your photo would seem to be early 20th Century. This would make me think that the John Thomas shown would probably be son of the John who died in 1896. The Tom Perkins I knew – but only in passing – did tell me a bit of history when I showed him our stable block iron work.
Tom Perkins told me that he was named after his uncle, the Claybrooke Magna Blacksmith. His uncle emigrated to Canada to make a better life for himself & family. Would our Tom have been named after John Thomas?(Possibly) Is John Thomas the man who emigrated & Tertius (3rd son?) would have gone too? Yes along with his wife Sarah Jane Sleath) Hence I ask if you are in Canada. Tom did tell me that the Perkins smithy also made most of the ironwork in the cemetery & around the churchyard. Sadly a lot of that was used for military purposes in WW2.”
Fanny Haywood, a friend of Sarah Jane, must have gone to Claybrooke Hall just after the 1891 census. Her descendant Ann who now lives in Wales, has several books inscribed by her dated that year (1891) when she was still at Great Longstone, Derbyshire as Cook for Captain Legge the Chief Constable of Derbyshire. She wrote “Fanny downgraded going to Claybrooke to be nearer home when her mother became ill and after Fanny married, her mother lived permanently at Ullesthorpe”.
Sarah Jane left the Hall when she married John Thomas Perkins at St. Peter’s Church on May 5, 1901. That was, as I said earlier, 114 years ago.
The hall has had other residents since then, but as yet I haven’t done any research to determine who they were. If anyone has information, I would be delighted to hear from you and add your story to mine. I also hope that the information in my Blog is correct, but if anyone notes errors, again, please let me know so the story can be amended. Also a reminder to those doing their own family history, also fully check the Census to see who lives with or near by to your ancestor. Often relatives live nearby or a widowed parent moves in with a married daughter or a relative isn’t where you think they should be but may be listed as a Visitor at another relatives place. Often over time, you find young people marrying others who live down the road.
It is amazing who you are able to locate in the manner. I did research for someone and it turned out that the ancestors they were looking for had once been neighbours. She was the daughter of the grocer and he was the married man living next door with his wife and family and for whom she did housework. Turns out she became pregnant, he left his family and they emigrated to Canada from England where they established a complete new family. Lost all contact with their English families!