How Caple Court started life as a modest farm house, and it was not until much later that it was extended and improved until it became the house we can see today. Interestingly, it was called How Caple Court even back in the 18th century when it was not very grand at all.

Sir William Gregory

Sir William Gregory was not from great aristocracy, and in fact he was left with absolutely nothing after the death of his father. He entered the employ of the grandfather of Sir John Kyrle before going on to become a barrister, and gradually built himself a comfortable living.

 
After the Restoration, Sir William’s business went from strength to strength and he started buying up land – purchasing How Caple in 1677, whereupon he was elected Country Party candidate for Hereford and earned himself much respect as he went on to take a very active role in politics and parliament. Due to an argument between the King and the Commons over who would best serve as Speaker, Sir William was eventually given the post as a compromise – by all accounts he was not the best, and his talents lay in other directions, although in later years not all his political efforts were appreciated by Herefordians.

 
It was Sir William who first started extending and rebuilding How Caple Court in the mid seventeenth century, and his descendants remained there until the late eighteenth century.
He died in 1696, and was buried at How Caple.

 

How Caple Court has New Owners

The Court then went through a period of many changes of ownership, or residency, but the following two names may or may not be from the Court. I say this, because there is a bit of a grey area re what was How Caple Court, and what was one of the farms, but I do think that these were residents of the Court itself, given their obvious wealth as can be seen from newspaper reports.

Mr. Richard Sheward

The first resident that I have found so far, is Mr. Richard Sheward who in 1807 advertised the loss of his black sheepdog bitch “with a few white hairs intermixed and much white hair over the right eye”. He was clearly a man of some means, as he offered five guineas for either the return of the dog, or on conviction of a thief.

 

In 1841, by the time of the first census, James Gwillim – a farmer – and his family were resident at How Caple Court

James Gwillim

How Caple Court  Household 1841 census

James Gwillim 50 Farmer b. Herefordshire
Mary Gwillim 50 Wife b. Herefordshire
James Gwillim 23 Solicitor b. Herefordshire
Richard Gwillim 20 b. Herefordshire
William Gwillim 18 b. Herefordshire

Four years later, in 1845, James’ wife Mary died, and just two years after that his youngest daughter, also Mary, died aged 15. It was reported that she had been very ill for some considerable time, but had born it with resignation and patience.

By the mid 19th century, Alexander Howden was resident at How Caple Court, and he was followed by J.G. Haynes

Attempted Sale of How Caple Estate in 1881

In 1881, the whole of How Caple Estate was put up for sale, with an acreage of l,815 and enclosing the Rectory of How Caple and Sollershope, as well as the Manor of Fownhope, which had never before it was thought, been up for public sale. The auctioneers, Messrs. Marsh, Milner and Co. emphasised the fertile soil and also the fact that How Caple Court was one of the best hunting and shooting properties to be found anywhere in the country. Also pointed out was the considerable frontage to the River Wye, which afforded great boating and salmon fishing opportunities with the owner having exclusive fishing rights to that, and the trout stream running through the estate.

 
“The property was put up in one lot, the first offer being £40,000, but at £55,000 it was withdrawn and submitted to four lots. The first consisted of How Caple Court, Garraway and Falcon Farms, with several smaller holdings and nearly 100 acres of woods and plantations with an annual rent, or estimated value, of £1,685.16s. No bidding being made, an upset price of £40,000 was named and the auctioneer passed on to lot two made up principally of wood land in the parishes of Fownhope and Woolhope with an acreage of 732, and an estimated annual value of £559. For this again, no offer was made and it was withdrawn at £12,000.”

 
In fact, nothing was sold at this auction.

How Caple Court rented by E. Hunt

By the late nineteenth century, the Court was up for rent – along with a great many other family seats throughout the country. I am still looking for census records at this time, (the 1891 census is less than helpful, in that it does not give the name of houses or roads) but it appears that it was a Mr. E. Hunt who was renting How Caple Court, who was a keen supporter of the Ross Cottage Hospital, and held concerts at the court the proceeds of which were given to the Hospital.

 
I feel that he was of the gentlest and kindest nature as perhaps is illustrated by the following advertisement in 1895:
“A gentleman wishes to highly recommend his Coachman, who has lived with him seven years where pair or more are kept; smart, active man; good stableman and careful driver; industrious and obliging. Married, aged 37. – E. Hunt, How Caple Court”

How Caple Court Household and servants 1901 Census

Charles Gilbert 52 Living on own means, b. Wiltshire
Ethel A. Gilbert 45 Wife b. India
Marion H. Gilbert 19 Daughter b. Wales
Beatrice E. Gilbert 18 Daughter b. Wales
Elsie D. Gilbert 16 Daughter b. How Caple, Herefordshire
Constance W. Gilbert 12 Daughter b. Sellack, Herefordshire
Grace M. Gilbert 7 Daughter b. Sellack, Herefordshire
Alice Frances 40 Cook b. Little Birch, Herefordshire
Agnes E. Smales 22 Parlourmaid b. Islington, London
Jessy Edwards 18 School Maid b. Bromyard, Herefordshire
Frances Robins 28 Governess b. Ruardean, Gloucestershire

Although the Gilbert family were tenants in 1901, by this time How Caple Court had been purchased by the Lee family, with whom it remains to this day.

The Rev. T.B. Paynter – How Caple Court, Sanitary Burial and bankruptcy

Rev Paynter deserves his place in the history of How Caple Court, because he spent a huge amount of money on the estate, even though he couldn’t afford it, and in fact this was part of the reason why he managed to get himself into huge financial trouble. Another reason was his (correct) belief in a better more hygienic method of burial and subsequent interest in the Sanitary Burial co. ltd.
It is best explained by the following newspaper article:

“Sanitary Burial and £50,000 Debt.

At the London Bankruptcy court, the case of the Rev. T.B. Paynter was heard, where the debtor stated that he was ordained in 1870 and afterwards held enracies in the West of England and Shropshire. In 1878 he became curate of Kemberton and about that time spent large sums in rebuilding churches; the one at Kemberton costing him about £2,930. He estimated his total expenditure in connection with it at between £4,000 and £5,000.

 

In 1884 he became rector of How Caple cum Sollers Hope, Herefordshire. He was now aware that his expenditure since 1890 had considerably exceeded his income. His deficiency account disclosed an item of £5,200 in respect of interest on loans, which were obtained and laid out on the How Caple Court estate. His outlay on the estate had amounted to £20,000 and proved unproductive owing to the depreciation in the value of agricultural land.

 

His affairs having become involved, he, in order to retrieve his financial position, entered on various enterprises – namely, the Military equipment stores and tortoise tents co.Ltd. , the Sanitary Burial co. ltd.; a non-rolling safety ship and a new bulkhead, but these proved unsuccessful.”
The Rev. Paynter was asked what had attracted him to the sanitary burial project, and he replied that he had spoken to Archbishops and other church dignitaries on the subject and they all concluded that it supplied a public want.
His total debts amounted to £50,855 of which £33,842 was unsecured.
Eventually, his living was sequestrated, and in 1895 he resigned it, before moving to London.

Lennox Bertram Lee

Lennox B. Lee was born in 1865, his family being the textile manufacturers Tootal, Fowler and Lee (now Tootals). His father was Joseph C. Lee, who was one of the founders of the Manchester Ship Canal Company and his mother was Dame Henrietta Burleigh Lee who died in Cheltenham in 1923.
Lennox bought How Caple Court in 1898 having moved from Cheshire, and threw himself into maintaining and improving the gardens, being rather a gifted amateur garden designer.
He was Chairman of the Calico Printers Association Ltd., and a past president of the Federation of British Industries.
Lennox Bertram Lee died on 14th December 1950, and left £282, 556.

 

How Caple Court Household and Servants 1911 census

Lennox Bertram Lee 46 Director of Public Companies b. Lower Broughton, Manchester
Edith G. Lee 43 Wife b. Glasgow
Lennox Cleland Lee 18 Son b. Knutsford, Cheshire
Roger M. Lee 9 Son b. Ollerton, Cheshire
Dorothy Ferris 27 Domestic Servant b. Heavitree, Devon
Florence Beard 27 Domestic Servant b. Brookend, Gloucestershire
Gertrude May Taylor 19 Domestic Servant b. Worcester
Sophia Bradley 20 Domestic Servant b. Ledbury, Herefordshire
Mary Ann Moss 31 Domestic Servant b. Cam, Gloucestershire
Charlotte Newton 20 Domestic Servant, b. Hereford

 

Lennox Cleland Lee

Second Lieutenant Lennox Cleland Lee, Irish Guards was appointed on probation to the 1st Battalion on August 15th 1914. Aged 21 he was an ex cadet of the O.T.C and eldest son of Lennox B. Lee of How Caple Court. He was killed in action in 1915.

Janet Lee

Janet Lee, only daughter of Lennox B. Lee of How Caple Court became engaged to John E. Gordon, 5th Dragoon Guards (youngest son of the late Colonel Charles Gordon) in 1920.
Janet was an accomplished horsewoman, and at the Three Counties Show in Malver in 1922 she won the class for the best hack ridden side saddle.