This is the history of the Sheffield family, as told by Sir Reginald Sheffield, Bt.
Our story begins a very considerable way from this place, in fact, Jerusalem , during the Fifth Crusade.
In 1118 a Knight of Champagne, named Hugh of Payns, with eight companions, founded in Jerusalem a brotherhood known as “The Militia of the Temple ”. Many catholic knights joined this order to fight the moors and SIR ROBERT, the first SHEFFIELD in our story, was one of these knights. His tomb, showing his Templar uniform and cross, lies in St. Andrew’s Church, Burton upon Stather, near Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire.
These Knights were very different from the Hollywood version which we now probably take as the proper one and I thought you might be interested to hear what St. Bernard said about the Templars when he gave an eye witness description:
“They come and go at a sign from their commander. They wear the clothes which he gives them seeking neither other garments nor other food. They are wary of all excess in goods or clothing desiring only what is needful. The live altogether, without women or children. No idlers or lookers are to be found in their company, when they are not on active service, which happens rarely, or eating their bread of giving thanks to heaven they busy themselves with mending their clothes and their torn or tattered harness. Insolent words, vain acts, immoderate laughter, complaints and murmurs when they are perceived do not go unpunished. They hate chess and dice and they have a horror of hunting. They do not find the usual pleasure in the ridiculous pursuit of birds. They shun and abominate mines and magicians and jugglers, light songs and foolishness. They crop their hair close because the gospel tells them it is a shame for a man to tend his hair. They are never seen combed and rarely washed, their beards are matted they reek of dust and bear the stains of heat and their harness”.
The orders later developed into a kind of aristocratic ‘Foreign Legion’ including among their members not only seekers after God and heroism but also increasing numbers of failures, disappointed lovers, restless ambitious men and even repentant criminals. It took a great character to endure the harsh discipline of the orders and the trials of a life compulsorily dedicated to war. Each Brother made over all his possessions as a gift to the community and in time, the Templars became extremely rich. By the middle of the Twelfth Century there were several hundred knights, at least two thousand squires and sergeants. They were unpaid and lived off the land. They kept themselves ostentatiously to themselves and were not loved by nobles, clergy or people and finally they gained a reputation, no doubt deserved, for brutality and greed.
They only owed allegiance to their Grand Master rather than to any king or country and this finally led to their destruction and dissolution in the middle of the fourteenth century. We do not know anything about SIR ROBERT SHEFFIELD except that he lived during the time of Henry III and must have gone on the Fifth Crusade.
In 1244 a great disaster struck the Templars when Jerusalem was captured by the Turks and ROBERT may have escaped and arrived in England at that time. He married a girl called Felicia Tennaby, who was something of an heiress and is said to have settled at Hemswell on the Spittle road between Kirton and Lincoln. His son ROBERT married another heiress and daughter of a knight called Sir Simon Gower and in turn his son married the daughter of the owner of West Butterwick , Alexander Lound, and was knighted by Edward I for services to the Crown around 1360. The succeeding SHEFFIELDS all called Robert, intermarried with local landowners and in 1395 married into the Beltoft family, who were also large landowners in the Isle of Axholme. There were several SHEFFIELDS during this period who rose to prominence; SIR JOHN SHEFFIELD was the Sheriff of Northumberland in 1307, WILLIAM SHEFFIELD was Bailiff of York in 1379, AGNES SHEFFIELD was Prioress of Syningthwaite Abbey in 1428 and a WILLIAM Sheffield was Sheriff of York in 1457. JOHN SHEFFIELD, a younger son, married into the Thoresby family and became Lord of Croxby. His brother was WILLIAM SHEFFIELD, Dean of York and also Treasurer of York Cathedral in 1485. All of these SHEFFIELDS were related or descended from the original Knight Templar. By the middle of the fifteenth century, through their marriages, they had become the largest landowners in the Isle of Axholme and the most important family in the district.
Before we continue with our story and meet SIR ROBERT, the first important SHEFFIELD of the time, perhaps we ought to look around us and see what the Isle of Axholme and West Butterwick , where the SHEFFIELDS now lived, were like. The Isle of Axholme was part of the great East Anglian fen which ran from Kings Lynn to the banks of the Humber . We are told that the inhabitants of this fen were “brutish, bad-tempered and envious of all other people who they called upland men”. They usually walked aloft on stilts and lived by “grazing, fishing, fowling and hunting”. During the winter and sometimes during the greatest part of the year, the whole area was under water and the fen men produced large quantities of hay, reeds and willow. They used these products for both thatching and weaving. The taking of wild fowl for market was made on an immense scale. The wild geese and duck were captured hundreds at a time, being driven or lured into cages called decoys. Rents were largely paid in fixed quantities of eels, counted by the thousand. The Humber was also one of the most prolific salmon rivers in England and even in the nineteenth century so many salmon were caught that fresh fish were sold to the poor people at one penny per pound. The population of England in the fifteenth century was not more than four million and was regularly decimated by various plagues, although these may not have spread to the fen in the Isle of Axholme owing to the fact that it was so cut off from the rest of the country.
We learn from England’s first antiquarian scholar, Leland, that SIR ROBERT SHEFFIELD, who was born in 1470, married Helen, the daughter of Sir John Delves, a large landowner in the county of Stafford, who was one of the great heiresses of the time. You should realise that families such as the SHEFFIELDS regarded the marriages of their children as counters in the game of family aggrandizement, useful to buy money or estates or to secure the support of powerful neighbouring families. Marriages were arranged and if the victim destined for the altar resisted rebellion was crushed, at least in the case of a daughter or female ward, with physical brutality, which we would find almost incredible. One girl who hesitated to marry a battered and ugly widower of 50 was for nearly three months on end, beaten once a week or sometimes twice in one day and her head broken in two of three places. Such were the methods of her mother Agnes, a highly religious, respectable and successful controller of the large Paston family household. Many parents seemed to care very little who married their children provided they themselves received the money.
ROBERT SHEFFIELD, as a large local landowner, raised a force for the King when he fought at the Battle of Stoke against the rebellious John, Earl of Lincoln. He was knighted by King Henry VIII after the battle had been won. He was a prominent barrister as well as being as wealthy landowner and held the important office of the Recorder of London. He resigned this office in 1508 and within two years, was the Speaker of the House of Commons, sitting as the member for the county of Lincoln . After he had retired from the position of Speaker of London he managed to get the wrong side of Cardinal Wolsey, the King’s Great Chamberlain. Robert was an orator of some note and believed that Wolsey was advancing the cause of the church against that of Parliament. He spoke to large crowds in the City of London and it was obvious that Wolsey was determined to shut him up. He was called before the Star Chamber on a ‘trumped up’ charge and shortly afterwards was put in the Tower of London , where, eventually he died. This began a tradition of the SHEFFIELDS to take the side of Parliament against the church and indeed, the King, and as we shall see, had a great effect upon their behaviour in the future.
SIR ROBERT, in his Will, left a silver figureen to Cardinal Wolsey, and pleaded for his children to be protected and educated. SIR ROBERT was very lucky to escape with his life and, but for his being the Speaker of the House of Commons and such a very prominent and wealthy man, it is most likely that he may well have met a worse end. He built a great fortified brick tower at West Butterwick on the lines of Tattershall Castle and also had a fine house in Hammersmith. There is, in existence, a portrait of ROBERT SHEFFIELD painted by Holbein, which is now owned by SIR REGINALD SHEFFIELD. Although some of his offices were removed by Wolsey, his son, who was also called ROBERT, married a Stanley, a daughter of the Earl of Derby and a cousin of the King and lived in the family castle at Butterwick.
EDMUND SHEFFIELD, this ROBERT’s son, was created a Baron under the will of Henry VIII in 1547. Owing to the death of his father when whe was only a child, he was made a ward of Lord Rochford, aged ten, and later of the Earl of Oxford. He was sent up to Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s great minister following the fall and death of Wolsey, but was such an unruly youth, that in 1538 we was thrown into prison to teach him a lesson. After his release and short stay at Court, he was created BARON SHEFFIELD OF BUTTERWICK and sent to quell a rebellion in Norfolk led by one Robert Kett.
Most of the land in England at the time was common land. This land would have been strip farmed in huge fields of anything between 200 and 500 acres which were not hedged and very much larger than the fields of today. In the 14th and 15th centuries and up to the time of the great Enclosure Act in the 19th century, orders were made in Parliament for the enclosure of common land, so that it could be cultivated more efficiently. These enclosures led to several rebellions by the peasants and the yeoman farmers. Kett’s rebellion was one of the most serious that took place at the time. Kett was a local landowner in Norfolk and a member of an old established family in the district. Kett had a quarrel with some new local landowners because of the way they were enclosing some of the common land and some of the local people tore down some fences owned by Kett. Kett, then tore down the fences owned by this local landowner, who was called Flowerdon. Almost by mistake a small riot grew into a considerable revolt as 16,000 men rose in rebellion in East Anglia and blockaded the local city of Norwich . The motto of the rebellion was that “we pray that all born men may be free; for God made all free with his precious shedding of blood”.
The Privy Council in London were extremely worried by these events and sent a royal herald to offer a pardon to Kett. Kett replied that Kings were willing to pardon wicked persons not innocent and just men. William Parr, Marquis of Northampton, was then sent with 2,500 men to free the city from Kett’s rebels and JOHN SHEFFIELD was in command of a troop of Italian mercenaries. During the battle LORD Sheffield was pulled from his horse by a butcher after the horse had stumbled and was clubbed to death, following the removal of his helmet. As Hollinshed, in his Chronicle, says “ …… but the pitiful slaughter of the LORD SHEFFIELD and having more regard for his honour than the safety of life desires to show some proof of his noble values entering amongst the enemies as he fought right hardily through not so warily as had been expedient, fell into a ditch as he was about to turn his horse and herewith being compass about with a number of those horrible traitors was thrown amongst them, although he both declared what he was and offered largely to the villains if they would have saved his life. And as he pulled off his head piece that it might appear what he was, a butcher’s knave named Eulks who by occupation was both a carpenter and a butcher, slat him in the head with a club and so most wretchedly killed him. A lamentable case at so young and noble gentlemen endued with so many commendable qualities as were wished to a man of his calling should thus miserably end his days by the hands of so vile a villain”.
Sir John Cheek, Edward VI’s tutor, writes “….. how was the LORD SHEFFIELD handled among you, a noble gentlemen of good services both fit for council in peace and conduct in war, he slew him cruelly who offered himself manfully”.
Finally, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, was sent to Norfolk and attacked Kett’s stronghold on Mousehole Heath. 3,500 men were killed, Kett was captured and sent to London . He and his brother, William, were brought to trail and were condemned to death as traitors. They were taken back to the city of Norwich where Robert’s body was hanged from the top of the castle and his brother William was hanged from the tower of his local church. All this goes to show that England was not the peaceful and pleasant land that it is sometimes made out to be. Rebellions were common place and every member of my family would be trained in the arts of war and could, and did, raise a considerable company of men including pikemen and archers from their lands and estates in the Isle of Axholme.
JOHN SHEFFIELD, the second Lord, married the daughter of William, first Lord Howard of Effingham, and thereby created an alliance with the most powerful family of the time. His son, EDMUND SHEFFIELD, was born around 1564 and succeeded his father in 1568. In 1573 his mother secretly married Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, and EDMUND was for some time Lord Dudley’s ward. In 1582 he was one of the Lords whom Queen Elizabeth ordered to accompany the Duke of Angoux to Antwerp and he served under Leicester as a volunteer in the wars in the Netherlands against the Spanish.
JOHN SHEFFIELD is supposed to have been poisoned by the Earl of Leicester, to facilitate his private marriage with Lady Sheffield, one of the greatest beauties of Queen Elizabeth’s court. But Lord Leicester being afterwards captivated by the charms of Lettice, daughter of Sir Francis Knolles, K.G., and wife of Walter Earl of Essex, he is said to have had that nobleman poisoned in Ireland , and at the same time to have attempted the death of Lady Sheffield, to make way for this new attachment. He likewise disowned his private marriage with her; and the poison he administered having deprived her of her hair and nails, and nearly of her life, she was induced, for safety, to obey his commands in accepting, for her third husband, Sir Edward Stafford.
In 1588, when the Spanish sent their Armada to attack England , EDMUND was a member of the Council of war and commanded his own ship “The Bear” as head of a squadron. He was knighted by his cousin, the second Lord Howard of Effingham, the Lord High Admiral in charge of the English fleet. Elizabeth was so impressed with the many services that EDMUND had rendered the Crown that in 1591 she awarded him the Manor of Mulgrave in Yorkshire , which was part of the forfeited estate of Sir Francis Bygod, a catholic. In 1593 he was elected a Knight of the Garter but suspicions were aroused as he had married a catholic, although records at the time tell that “he was very zealous in apprehending priests and that he would undertake any service against the papists, for God has called him to the profession of religion”.
After the death of Elizabeth he become Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire and in 1609 was made Lord President of the North, which really meant that he governed the whole of the north of England in the King’s name and he held both these posts for a considerable time until 1619 when he was forced to resign as he had executed a catholic priest without the King’s leave and James I had to promise the Spanish Ambassador that he would be removed.
From 1616 to his death, EDMUND was a Vice Admiral of the County of York and he also invested in the colonisation of North America and was a member of the Councils of the Virginia Company and of the New England Company. He lived in a very fine house in Hammersmith called Butterwick House and his tomb is in Hammersmith church.
When James I died, at the coronation of Charles I, EDMUND was made the EARL OF MULGRAVE but he eventually was one of the only 20 peers that remained in London when in 1640 Cromwell started the civil war. Although by now he was too old to take an active part, all his family influence was exerted for the parliamentary cause and as his estates in the north of England were in the hands of the King he had to petition Parliament for support and was granted £50 per week for his own subsistence and £10 per week for that of his grandson. His grandson, also called EDMUND, played a considerable part in the war and was a member of the Council of State of the Commonwealth in 1654. He was dissatisfied by the execution of the King and also the threat to abolish the House of Lords. In December 1657 Cromwell summoned him to his new House of Lords but MULGRAVE did not take his seat. Young EDMUND’s father, JOHN SHEFFIELD, the old Earl’s son, was drowned in 1614, together with two of his brothers, crossing the Humber at Whitgift, and was married to the daughter of Sir Edmund Anderson, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, who lived at Lea near Gainsborough and gave a considerable amount of land at Flixborough to his son-in-law as a dowry for his daughter. As a matter of interest, Edmund Anderson’s tomb is in the church at Broughton and is a particularly fine one of it’s type.
EDMUND SHEFFIELD’S son was JOHN SHEFFIELD, the third Earl, who eventually became the DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM and NORMANBY and lived between 1648 to 1721. It was with JOHN SHEFFIELD, the first DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM AND NORMANBY, that the SHEFFIELD ‘S power, wealth and prestige reached its height. At the age of 18 JOHN went to sea as a volunteer in the English fleet against the Dutch and from all accounts acquitted himself very well. In 1667, aged 19, he was appointed Captain of a Troop of Horse and 6 years later he was appointed as a GENTLEMAN OF THE BED CHAMBER to the King. In the same year he went again to sea in command of a ship and also was appointed COLONEL OF THE OLD HOLLAND REGIMENT OF FOOT. However, in 1682 he was caught making love to Princess Anne and his enemies at Court, who were jealous of his close relationship with the King, immediately relayed the news to the girl’s father who, as you can imagine, was extremely displeased. In retaliation against the assaults the unfortunate JOHN had made against his daughter, Charles sent him to sea in a leaky boat, probably hoping that he would never be seen again. However, the young LORD MULGRAVE eventually got to Tangier and was sent back home by the English Admiral, Lord Herbert, in a proper man-of-war. By this time, King Charles’ anger had blown over and he had missed JOHN’s pranks and jokes and he was reappointed to his positions at Court. On the accession of James, MULGRAVE was not only created a Privy Councillor in 1685, but was created LORD CHAMBERLAIN, the most powerful officer of the Court in 1686. In the same year he also succeeded Rochester , who was his great ememy and rival on the Reconstituted Court of the High Commission.
James II made himself very unpopular with the people because of his advancement of Roman Catholics and eventually had to flee the country. The Duke, however, was faithful to him to the end but he must have had mixed feelings, especially as his father was such a supporter of Cromwell and the Commonwealth. Although JOHN eventually voted for the accession of William and Mary to the throne, he became a leader of the Tory party and went into opposition.
In January 1693, he supported the claim of the Lords to assess their own estates for the land tax and his speech was described as “beyond anything ever heard in that House”. He also protested against the renewal of the censorship of the press in 1694. In the same year he was made a Privy Councillor with a pension of £3,000 per year which was very welcome as his financial affairs, despite his great wealth, were in something of a mess. A week later he was created MARQUIS OF NORMANBY and on the 23rd June he was admitted to the Cabinet and was temporarily made SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS. As soon as Anne succeeded to the throne, his old girlfriend immediately made him a member of the privy Council and in 1702 she made him LORD PRIVY SEAL and shortly afterwards created him DUKE OF THE COUNTY OF BUCKINGHAM AND OF NORMANBY. However, the whigs were in ascendance and in early 1705 he was compelled to resign his appointments.
In the same year BUCKINGHAM was largely instrumental in inducing the Tory Party to bring forward their disastrous proposal to invite the Electress Sophia of Hanover. This had the effect of throwing Anne completely into the hands of the Whig Party which held power until 1710. When the Tories regained office he was made LORD STEWARD OF THE HOUSEHOLD and once again a Privy Councillor and afterwards LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL.
After Anne’s death, and on the arrival of George I, he was removed of all his positions at Court and in government and lived on quietly in his great house in St. James’s, Buckingham House, which he had built in 1703 on land granted by the Crown. He died in 1712 and he was then buried in Westminster Abbey in the vault at the east end of King Henry’s chapel. We know from a contemporary account what this man looked like. “He was tall and though he was not perhaps the most exactly shaped, being thought a little too long waisted, a rather too narrow in his chest and shoulders, yet altogether he looked like a man of quality than most of his rank who lived at the same time with him. Sitting in a coach or standing in a room without the blue ribbon, or any ornament of dress, he had the air of grandeur which gave the impression he was of more than common quality. He was allowed to be handsome, his face being a regular oval and all the features of it well proportioned. His countenance had an extraordinary sweetness joined with a lively penetrating look which at first sight struck you with an idea of that great understanding which he gave the world such various proofs. He had one thing very particular that laughing heartily, which is seldom advantageous to anybody, was in him uncommonly agreeable. It was generally allowed that nobody could exceed him in person when young so few, if any were so agreeable when old”.
The account goes on to state “the liabilities which he allowed himself in relation to the ladies are too well known to be omitted from his character. But this ought to be remarked as a proof of his good sense that none of his mistresses could ever prevail upon him to marry foolishly, or ever gain greater ascendance over him. As he often expressed, some years before he died, a good deal of concern for that kind of libertinism, into which an impetuosity of temper too much neglected in his education, together with the prevailing fashion of that Court in which he lived, had too often hurried him”.
He left many natural children, which he had owned before his third marriage and he has often heard to say since he had legitimate children, he wished he had never had the others or at least had not owned them: it being in private families an ill example.
In a word, he was a good husband, a just and tender father, a constant zealous friend and one may add, the most agreeable of companions. Though he was so often in great places at Court, yet he never acted in any post but as it seemed to him consistent with the good of his country, even when it was most against the humour of his Prince he never failed to declare his dissent in speeches or to enter his protest in form and he often lost and gave up his place on this very score, so that the character Mr. Dryden gave of him very early was verified to the last: “In council or debate, true to his Prince, but not a slave of State”.
Prince Eugene said of the Duke, “ … sanguine man but of great part, esteemed a true patriot, one of the oldest sons of the church, great assertor of the ancient constitution, reputed a great lover of the family of the Stewarts, having the favour of the Queen’s ear very much”.
Some other contemporary commentators were not so flattering. The famous Dr. Johnson said of the Duke, “ … his religion he may have maybe supposed to have learned of Hobbes and his morality which was such that naturally proceeds some loose opinions. His sentiments with respect to women he picked up in the Court of Charles, and his principles, concerning property, was such as the gaming table supplies. He was censured as covetous, and has been defended by an instance in attention to his affairs that is a man might not at once be corrupted by avarice and idleness. If we credit the testimonies of his contemporaries he was a poet of no vulgar rank but favour and flattery are at an end; criticism is no longer softened by his bounties nor awed by his splendour and discovers him to be a writer that sometime glimmers but rarely shines; feebly laborious and at best but pretty. To be great he hardly tries, to be gay is hardly in his power”.
Dean Swift says that “ …. He is a nobleman of learning, and in good natural part but of no principal, violent for the high church yet seldom goes to it, very proud, insolent and covetous and takes all advantages. This character is the trust of any”.
Walpole says of the haughty Duchess of Buckingham, “ … she was more mad with pride than any mercer’s wife in bedlam”. After hearing Whitefield preach she wrote this to Lady Huntingdon. “I thank your Ladyship for the information concerning the Methodist preachers. Their doctrines are most repulsive and strongly tinctured with impudence and disrespect towards their superiors. It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the comment wretches that crawl the earth. Cannot but wonder that your Ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding”.
The Duke was not only interested in political power he was an eminent poet and a rather bad playwright. He was the patron of Dryden and William Wytcherley, two of the most important literary figures of the time and he wrote many essays and criticisms which were publicly published. He married three wives, all of them widows. Firstly, Ursula, the widow of the Earl of Conway, Secondly, Catherine, the oldest daughter of Lord Brook and a widow of the Earl of Gainsborough and thirdly, following her acrimonious divorce by Act of Parliament from the Marquis of Anglesy, who treated her very cruelly, Lady Katherine Darnley, the oldest daughter of James II and his mistress Katherine Sedley. Katherine Sedley was the best known mistress of James II, who possessed a very powerful character indeed which he passed on to her daughter. Katherine was proud, arrogant and determined to let people know she was of royal blood, even if only as the illegitimate daughter of the former King. JOHN SHEFFIELD provided her with a name and background as well as an extremely grand house, which is now Buckingham Palace , with which to indulge her every whim. She cannot have been an easy lady to live with. Unlike his other wives, however, she did produce several children but unfortunately, all of them died, including the second Duke, before they were very old and eventually there was nobody to inherit the Dukedom.
Meanwhile, what of Normanby. EDMUND SHEFFIELD had purchased Normanby Estate off Nicholas Girlington in 1591 and the house was rebuilt sometime in the 1590’s by the most famous architect at the time, Robert Smythson, who built Doddington Hall and Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. The new Normanby Hall was a typical Smythson mansion towering with it’s three turrets, to five floors. It survived just over 100 years and nothing of Smythson’s Hall now remains above the ground. The Smythson house was replaced by a rather ordinary looking mansion, and it was not until much later, in 1820, that the present house was built by Smirke.
The second Duke died of consumption aged 19 in 1735 but the first Duke had foreseen this eventually by naming one of his illegitimate children heir to his estates. The Duke obviously showed great affection for young Charles Herbert as can be seen from the correspondence concerning his son that survives, but the dowager Duchess was determined to keep the Duke’s estates for her own family and there were several law suits that went on until her death in 1743.
CHARLES SHEFFIELD, as he became, was created a Baronet in 1755 and in 1762 he sold the Duke’s great house to King George III and it is, of course, here where our royal family continue to live.
Charles’ son, SIR JOHN, and his succeeding heirs, took a much closer interest in the estate than the Duke, who did not like the countryside and far preferred to live in London as the succeeding commentary reveals.
“This nobleman (a warrior, a politician, a courtier and a poet) was not personally a tyrant to his Yorkshire tenants, whatever his steward might have been; for he never came near them if he could help it. But, before he had arrived at his dukedom, and when he was very young, the Great Plague broke out in London ; and he thought it a less plague to visit his estates than to stay in the midst of the epidemic. As soon as the pestilence was subdued, … he set out again for London but, during his stay on the estate, he had been so affable to his dependants, and it was so much their interest to have him among them, that they used every effort in their power to seduce him into a liking for the country, and to inoculate him into a taste which, it was clear, he did not take naturally. They accompanied him, therefore, in a body, nearly through the first state of his journey to town; and after having gone in procession with his carriage over Saltersgate Moor, a dismal waste of sundry miles, they then took their leaves, beseeching him to come back to them soon.
Many flowery speeches passed between the noble Earl and his adherents – of kindness and patronage on one side, and duty and devotion on the other; all ending, on the part of the tenantry, with ‘At what time may we hope for the happiness of seeing Your Lordship again?’. The answer was, for some time, ingeniously evaded; till at last he was so strongly pushed that there was no parrying it, and his Lordship said, ‘My worthy friends, I shall make a point of being with you again, at the next Plague.”
Charles’ grandson SIR ROBERT, finally sold his remaining properties in London and moved to live at Normanby. It is he who built the present house which was designed by Robert Smirke, a very well known and popular architect, who built the British Museum , amongst many other public and private buildings. Both SIR ROBERT, the builder of the house, his father CHARLES and his uncle JOHN seemed to have been model landlords at a time when landlords treated their tenants rather badly. They took a very great and close interest in their estates and their tenants and did a very considerable amount of renovation to their farms, both in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire . They lived quietly at Normanby, looking after their affairs and did not take part in national politics but continued to increase the estate at Normanby and sold the majority of the land they had inherited from the Duke in Yorkshire which had not been taken by the Duchess for her own family. (It may be of interest that the descendant of this Duchess was the late Bishop of Lincoln).
The SHEFFIELD ‘s have remained living at Normanby until the present day. My grandfather, as some of you may know, was a Member of Parliament for Brigg and Scunthorpe for many years and developed with the Yarboroughs and the Winns the iron ore at Normanby and in the surrounding area. As a result of this Scunthorpe , which hitherto had really not existed, became a fairly sizeable town.
BERKELEY SHEFFIELD succeeded to the title when he was only 10 in 1886. From 1897 he was a diplomat in our Embassy in Paris and in 1907 he was elected to Parliament but lost his seat in 1910 and did not regain it until 1922. He sat as the MP until 1929 and was also director of the Grand central Railway. He married my grandmother in 1904, BARONESS JULIA VAN TUYLL. My grandfather and grandmother had four sons and one daughter, all who seem to have been a little bit unruly when they were children. My grandfather was a somewhat serious and academic man who was extremely well read and I do not think that his children were exactly what he expected them to be. he had a wing built by the well known Edwardian architect, Brierely, so that he could get away from them and have some peace and quiet. He also built them a house in the woods called “The Cottelet”, where they could play, although sadly this was demolished by the council when they took the Hall and grounds over. My grandfather died just after the war and the estate suffered very heavy death duties that made it virtually insolvent.