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Four Centuries of History at Myddelton Lodge.

An edited version of this article was published in the Ilkley Gazette on 11 November 1993


Myddelton Lodge

High above Ilkley, to the west of Middleton village, stands the impressive building most local people call "The Monastery". Known more properly as Myddelton Lodge, it is about to enter a new phase of its long history - as an integrated part of the Pastoral Centre of the Diocese of Leeds. The building is interesting not only because of its almost unbroken association with the Catholic religion, but also as the home and hunting lodge of the Middelton family, who were the "Lords of the Manor" of Ilkley, Middleton, and other estates in Yorkshire for many centuries.

The Lodge was built on the site of a medieval hamlet, now long forgotten, which was called Scalewray. Scalewray was last mentioned in its own right in 1490, when Anne Meddilton, wife of Peter Middilton, knight, was granted the messuage of Scalewray, then in the tenure of Constant Curtays, and newly enclosed, as her dower.

The first mention of the Lodge, under its old name of "Stubham Lodge" comes in 1550, when John Myddylton of Stubham Lodge was granted the inheritance of various manors by his grandfather Sir William Myddylton of Stockeld, near Wetherby, and Dame Joan, Sir William's wife. Sir William died c.1552, and shortly afterwards his grandson John left Stubham for Stockeld, and William's widow Jane moved to the Lodge, where she lived until she died in c.1583. At about this time Stubham Park is first mentioned, and it seems that the Lodge was at the centre of an estate used for hunting game, surrounded by a fence or pale.

Entries in the court rolls of the manor of Middleton show how Stubham Park and its boundary fence were being protected from the local tenants by the laying of "pains", or penalties. These examples date from 1574-80: "...none of the inhabitants within this Lordship shall make or use any footways over the park pale at the Ing Gill nor any other place but where a way hath been accustomed upon pain of every time so offending 12d...... none of the tenants of Middleton, Austby and Nesfield shall not pull down Stubham Park Pale nor put in nothing over sheep upon pain for every time so pulling down 12d..... no man shall carry away any pale board from Stubham Park pale upon pain of every board 3s. 4d. and every burthen of pale board 10s... none of Middleton, Austby or Nesfield shall fell, cut down or carry away any woods within Stubham Park [except] the farmers of the same Park...."

An agreement of 1590 between another William Middelton and his mother Isabel, and her second husband Gameliel Draxe, who were then living at Low Hall, sheds further light on the use of Stubham Park at that time. The indenture allowed William to set up his park pale around the Old Wood and the Lord's Close, which was part of his mother's dower. This was for "the enlargement of his park at Stubham..... and the better maintenance of his game". The deed gave permission for the keepers of the park "to fell brushing within the said grounds, to walk and view the same, and that the deer may quietly have pasturage therein".

William's son Sir Peter Middelton was clearly not satisfied with the Lodge as it was because in November 1619 he made an agreement with a carpenter named Edward Barber, of Clint, near Ripley, "to make a staircase at the west side of the house at Stubham Lodge, and a convenient stair to serve the great chamber and the garrets, and shall likewise repair and enlarge the roof... and divide the same into so many rooms of such proportion.... as is agreed upon." Sir Peter was to pay 88 for the work, which was to be completed before Michaelmas 1620. Barber was to fell the timber, and quarry the stones, and Sir Peter agreed to provide three beds for him and his servants, but Barber was to provide his own sheets. The work carried out by Barber can still be traced today.

Shortly after the completion of the work, in July 1621, an inventory was taken of the contents of the house entitled "Henry Currer's note of such household stuff as was delivered unto him at Stubham Lodge", implying either that Currer had taken the Lodge on a lease, or more likely that he was employed by Middelton to look after the place and keep it ready for his use when necessary, for one of the rooms is described as "my master's chamber". So, for example, we learn that in the "Great Chamber" (which was the large room on the first floor at the front of the house) there was "One long table, one little table, one long carpet, and one long form". In "Clifford's Chamber" was "one bedstead covered with green say curtains and valance with yellow knots and cupboard cloth suitable, one high chair and two low stools suitable, one mattress, one featherbed, one bolster, two pillows, three blankets, one green rug, one green silk quilt, one livery cupboard, one window curtain and one rod".

From a very early date the Lodge was a centre of the Catholic religion. During the days of persecution the recusant population of the county (those that refused to attend the services of the Established Church) was to be found in small groups, at the centre of each of which was to be found "a gentleman's household". Jane Middelton, mentioned above, was listed as a recusant c. 1580, and the Middelton family remained true to the "ancient faith" despite the many tribulations it brought them, including heavy fines and imprisonment. It is interesting to note that to this day in Middleton village there are Catholic residents whose ancestors have been part of this local recusant tradition. From 1688 there was a Benedictine missioner at the Lodge and James Hagerty, in his historical guide to the Lodge, mentions the names of eight of them who served between that date and 1865, in a line only broken for a few years in the early eighteenth century.

Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Lodge seems to have served as a "second home" or hunting lodge, with a Catholic priest in residence, with the Middelton's main home being at Stockeld Park, near Wetherby. A grand new house was built at Stockeld by yet another William Middelton in the period 1757 to 1763, the year of his death. His heir was William Constable, his great-nephew, who adopted the arms and name of Middelton. This William was married in 1782 to Clara Louisa Grace, daughter of William Grace, and over the period 1782-1794 they had ten children, only four of whom survived to adult life. But William's domestic life was to be shattered by the discovery that his wife had an infatuation for his groom, John Rose. He ejected her from the house, despite her protestations of innocence, and prosecuted the groom for "Criminal Conversation" and procured a divorce. After this he was unable to remain at Stockeld and he wrote in September, 1793 "I reached Stockeld on Saturday night.... every object round about revives melancholy ideas, I long much to leave the place, which I will do as soon as I can get my things removed and some little alterations made at the Lodge. I go tomorrow to give orders about them and shall return back the next day". From then onwards Myddelton Lodge was the main residence of the family.

William Middelton remained at Myddelton until his death in 1847, and it was he who was responsible for the building of the Chapel adjoining which was opened in 1825. At his death his son Peter came to live at the Lodge - he had previously been living at Stockeld, which was subsequently let to a wealthy farmer named Jeremiah Faviell. Peter, who died in 1866, was succeeded in turn by his son William, who lived at the Lodge with his brother Major John Middelton until 1885. William died unmarried and so at his death in 1885 the estates and the Lodge passed to his eldest brother Charles Marmaduke Middelton. Charles lived at the Lodge for a time, but neither Middleton nor Stockeld could have suited him, for by 1893 he had moved away. The Lodge was let to Arthur Middleton (not a relation) but later stood empty for some years. Charles died in 1904, and his son and heir Marmaduke Francis showed no more inclination to live at the Lodge than his father had.

Much of the Middelton family's estate had been sold off to raise money during the nineteenth century. The well-known series of land sales in Ilkley began in 1867 and continued for many years. The Stockeld Park estate was sold in 1890, and it was not long before the family's voracious appetite for cash had caused land in Middelton to be up for sale. The first major sale was in 1899, when the Wharfedale (Ilkley) Estate Company bought 450 acres for 55,000, and further sales during the first quarter of this century eventually disposed of the entire estate.

The Lodge itself was sold, together with the house "Tivoli", to Sidney Kellett in October 1912. Kellett was living there before the purchase was completed, and clearly saw himself as a "Lord of the Manor" figure, for to celebrate the coronation of George V in 1911 he and Mrs. Kellett "entertained the whole of the Middleton tenantry to a supper and concert at the Lodge. The gathering numbered about 120, and a splendid repast was provided in the chapel attached to the Lodge, which had been made to present a very gay and patriotic appearance... The proceedings were kept up until a late hour, and at dusk the Lodge grounds were illuminated with coloured lights". After Kellett's death his widow sold the Lodge to the Passionist Fathers, who revived the Catholic traditions which had lain dormant for almost thirty years. Their first Mass at Myddelton was held on November 26, 1922.

The Passionists remained at the Lodge until 1985 when the Diocese of Leeds took over the estate, but only recently has the ownership of the Lodge been transferred.

Myddelton Lodge today, despite its many additions and alterations, retains much of its original character. It is roughly square in plan, with four floors - basement, ground, first and attic. On the west side is attached the stair tower of 1620, and careful examination of the window surrounds reveals differences of detailing in the tower and the attic floor from the original work. The main entrance to the hall is up a short flight of steps through an unusual doorway of great rounded stones, which is a later addition. Above the door is a fine oriel window, flanked on each side by five light mullioned and transomed windows which opened into the main room or "great chamber". At each corner of the building are chimney stacks which were also extended in 1620. Inside the Lodge is full of features from different periods. The original staircase of 1620 remains in fine condition. Woodwork of the later eighteenth century is a feature of the main chamber and includes doors, a fireplace, and a dado. The main chamber in particular has been sadly used during the Passionists' time at the Lodge, and indeed since the building was surveyed in 1986 by the W.Y.M.C.C. the eighteenth century window seat in the oriel has disappeared. The nineteenth century is represented by another fireplace in the main chamber, as well as some of the oak panelling on the ground floor and the stained glass arms of Peter Middelton, d. 1866, and his wife Juliana.

The last hundred years have not been happy ones for the fabric of Myddelton Lodge. In 1893, when the Middeltons left, the Chapel was closed and many of its furnishings removed. The Calvary behind the Lodge was allowed to decline until by 1906 it was described as having "long ago entered the stage of desuetude and neglect". The Passionists set about the altering the Lodge to suit their needs, and whilst restoring Calvary and the Chapel they divided up the "Great Chamber" into several smaller rooms, in a fashion which would be frowned on today. The demand for additional retreat facilities led to the building in the 1960s of the unsympathetic buildings to the east which detract greatly from the overall surroundings of the Lodge. In particular, since 1985 the Lodge has suffered from want of maintenance. The building is now in a state of great disrepair, although the Diocese of Leeds deserves credit for their work releading the roof and making it externally sound.

Very recently the Diocese has managed to purchase the Lodge from the Passionists and there are great plans for its restoration. The task which faces the Diocese and their architects is a difficult one, not only because of the poor state of the building. The Lodge is full of features of great interest, ranging from those of the original building of Queen Elizabeth's time, and those which can be dated to the extension of 1620, to such later items as the eighteenth century panelling and fireplace and the nineteenth century stained glass coat of arms. Even such things as the old fashioned bath and w.c. have a place in the history of the Lodge. We must not expect Myddelton Lodge to become a museum of its own past - it is important that its ancient role as a centre for the Catholic community continues into the future. The future for the Lodge looks brighter than it has for a considerable time - perhaps for a hundred years. Let us hope that those living in or using the Lodge in a hundred years time are able to continue its traditions and that they will look favourably upon the great restoration of the late twentieth century.



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