Home Places Streets and Communities Houghton Hall – Interesting Old Building.

Houghton Hall – Interesting Old Building.

April 1930

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 04 April 1930

Houghton Hall

Interesting Old Building.

The Hall belongs to the Knottingley Brewery Company. Houghton Hall was formerly the residence of the Rodes, a family of considerable distinction in Yorkshire for centuries, and was probably erected early in the reign of James I. It bears the impress of antiquity, and its general architectural outlines are very beautiful. Externally the Hall has degenerated little during its hundred years’ regime as a public house.

A Link with Elizabeth.

“Worthies of Barnsley.” to the author of which (Mr. J. Wilkinson) we owe such a great deal for antiquarian and historical data concerning this part of South Yorkshire, states that the first member of the Rodes family to live at Great Houghton was Sir Godfrey Rodes, son of Francis Rodes, of Staveley Woodthorpe, in the county of Derby, who was one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas in the reign of Elizabeth.

The judge was married twice, and had issue by both wives, the eldest son was Sir John Rodes, of Barlboro’, and the second Sir Peter Rodes, of Hickleton. The fourth son, Sir Godfrey, was placed by his father upon his manor of Great Houghton, having built for him there a large and handsome mansion, and in his will gave both Houghton and Billingley to Godfrey, with lands at Darfield. His purchases there had been considerable., including the manor with the appurtenances and 20 messuages, 16 cottages, 20 tofts, one watermill, one windmill, 30 dovecotes, 30 gardens 30 orchards, 700 acres of land, 300 acres of meadow, 500 acres of pasture, 300 acres of wood, and 200 of moor. ”

Alehouse Lament.

The chronicler goes on to state that “much of the mansion at Great Houghton still remains, and, disfigured and dilapidated as it now is, there is still sufficient left to give a tolerably correct idea of its former extent and magnificence. The great hall, the easy winding staircase, and cheerless, though healthy lodging rooms, with their plaster floors, are yet in being, together with the low and wide windows and confined quadrangular court, the whole of which have been degraded to the uses of a village alehouse.

It is not much we know of Sir Godfrey Rhodes during his residence at Great Houghton, but the following curious licence that connects him with the place will be interesting:

That upon the certificate of Mr. Joseph Micklethwaite, practitioner in physique. Sir Godfrey Rodes, of Great Houghton, in the parish of Darfield, knight, and Mrs. Ann Rodes, his daughter, are subject to and greatly afflicted with such diseases as that the eating of fish would be prejudicial to their health,. We, the parson and vicar of the several medieties of the said church of Darfield, have given them our licence (so far as in us lyeth) to eat flesh in the time of Lent and other fast days.

(Sd.) Walter Stonehonse, rector, Rich, Townend, vicar, John Storrs, churchwarden.”

Sir Edward Rodes, the son of Sir Godfrey, was a man of greater note than his father. He stood out conspicuously as a Parliamentarian on the commencement of the Civil Wars, notwithstanding that the great Royalist, Strafford, was his brother-in-law. Few persons entered more eagerly into the views taken by Parliament when affairs were advancing to a crisis, and it was for the most part to him and his friends that the scheme for maintaining the peace of Yorkshire, arranged by the two great parties at Rothwell before the war began, was frustrated. Bat he had already suffered from the effects of the civil strife, for his residence at Great Houghton had been attacked by a party of Royalists under Capt. Grey, in which his outhouses were burned, his goods plundered to the amount of £600, his lady uncivilly treated, some of his servants wounded and one slain. This took place as early as the beginning of Sept., 1642, and it said to have been the first conflict between the opposing forces.

Civil War Link.

Apparently this is not the first time Houghton Old Hall has been threatened by fire. “Here,” says a writer, referring to the incidents recorded above , “began the first breach; in lieu of opposing foreigners, a regiment of Northumberland horse is permitted to pass the very length of the county; who upon intimation that Sir Edward Rodes did effect the militia by commission from His Majesty fall upon him to take the arms: and after a short resistance his barn was burnt for so doing, the horror whereof stirred up divers good subjects, his neighbours, to the advance of the quenching of the said fire.”

This act of hostility reacted throughout the county. “The people of Rotherham immediately proceeded to throw up works, and a garrison was settled there by Lord Fairfax. Lord Newcastle published a list of gentlemen of Yorkshire whom he called traitors, which contains the name of Sir Edward Rodes.

Sir Edward Rodes served under Cromwell at the battle of Preston and was sent in pursuit of the Duke of Hamilton. He was returned to one of Cromwell’s parliaments for the shire of Perth. He lived till the Restoration, and in the second year of the reign of Charles II was again High Sheriff of Yorkshire. As he continued a dissenter it is probable that his connection with the Earl of Strafford was the reason why he was permitted to fill the office.

Sir Edward died on the 19 Feb. 1966 and was buried at Darfield. Of Sir Edward Rodes’s thirteen children there were Godfrey Rhodes, of Great Houghton, and Ann, who married George Ellis, of Brampton, the benefactor. The interment of the Edward and. Lady Rodes took place the day following’ their decease, which was customary at the period. Lady Rodes was buried at midnight, as also was Sir Edward’s sister, the Dowager Countess of Strafford. These nocturnal funerals were then common among the gentry and morewealthy yeomanry. They took place by torchlight, and during the proof the funeral procession the house- Carders illuminated their windows with lighted candles. The loss of Lady Rodes and, six days following, her son Godfrey, who was then the head of the house at Houghton, was much deplored in the district, and a funeral elegy, published the same year, has been preserved. The opening lines ran: “Now Houghton Hall with double mournines clad, The noble lady and the squire deed.”

Haven of Nonconformists.

The family of Rodes were eminent for their nonconformity, and their house at Great Houghton long formed an asylum for the ejected and persecuted clergy of that period.

In the year 1650 Sir Edward Rodes erected near his mansion a building for the performance of religious worship by his family and tenantry. The patronage of this chapel was kept entirely in the hands of the family, and it had no endowment but what they settled on it, the descendants of Sir Edward Rodeo classing themselves as Presbyterians.

Great Houghton had a succession of nonconforming ministers. Mr. Nathan Denton, of Bolton, near Haughton, aged about 87, who died in 1720, was the last of the dissenting ministers ejected in 1662.

A further halo is thrown over Great Houghton in the fact that Elizabeth, one of the sisters of Sir Edward Rodes, was the third wife of Sir Thomas Wentworth, great Lord Strafford. They were married privately in 1622, a year after the death of Wentworth’s second wire. He concealed his alliance for some time, and is said to have scarcely had such an elevated love for her as that which inspired him toward his second and favourite wife. Elizabeth Rodes has been described by one author as a pretty but rather commonplace woman.

Houghton Old Hall passed in the early days of the nineteenth century, to Richard Slater Milnes., of Wakefield and Fryston, M.P. for York, who had married Rachel, a daughter of Hans Busk, the descendant of a Swedish merchant, and Martha Rodes. The record states that at one time Mr. Milnes had intended to make Houghton Hall his residence. Not only the walls, but much the original furniture remained. Some of the rooms were hung with tapestry and in others were portraits of Queen Elizabeth, and many of the distinguished persons of her court.

Mr. Milnes found the hall in a state of some decay, and also that the houses of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, “however striking as picturesque objects, and however curious as illustrative of the manners of an age long passed away, are little adapted to afford those conveniences and comforts which, in the improved state of society, are become requisite.” He expended £1,000 (an enormous sum in those days) in alterations and repairs, but after a residence of ten weeks he abandoned the Hall to tenants. The furniture and be were removed, and many of the windows were blocked up.

Fading Glory of The Hall

There is suggestion of social cattishness in the following extract from a letter from Mr. Woodcock, of Hemsworth, to the Rev. J. Hunter, the Yorkshire historian, dated 1823:

“The Milnes family made a great show forty years since at Wakefield; and there were the Busks and Madame Rodes, who never moved without four horses; and now where are they? If it was not that I hear of the benevolence sad urbanity of the Dowager Lady Galway, the Milnes family would be forgotten.

Mr. R. Milnes took the old furniture from Houghton to Fryatone, burnt the most of it, and the pictures may be somewhere in the garrets, perhaps.”

The present Earl of Crewe is descended from the Rodes (?) of Great Houghton.