This beautiful, still privately owned, house sits close to the Shropshire border, and was built in 1660 at the end of the Civil War after the destruction of Brampton Bryan Castle. In the mid 18th century it was much enlarged and renovated, and the owners have kept the building in excellent condition, indeed it was featured in Howards End.
The Harley family have passed the property down through generations since Domesday, although originally they lived in the Castle, which was more fortified house than castle, and the current owner is president of the Historic Houses Association,
Sir Robert Harley at Brampton Bryan Hall
Sir Robert Harley, K.B. married three times, his last wife being Brilliana Conway the daughter of Lord Conway – one of the first soldiers and statesmen of the age. Sir Robert was described as a man of the highest worth and public spirit, and was a conspicuous member of the Long Parliament where he represented Hereford, although was previously a member for Radnor. He was also a magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant of Herefordshire.
Lady Brilliana Harley
Lady Brilliana was twenty four years younger than Robert, but was a very strong and highly intelligent woman so perhaps the pairing was far more suitable than had she married a much younger man. Whilst Robert attended the sittings of the Long Parliament in London in November 1640, Brilliana took care of all his interests at home, but keenly followed the proceedings of that memorable Parliament.
Lady Brilliana wrote frequent letters, and in January to wrote to her son who had joined his father in London “now your father and you are from me, my contentment is in the happy proceedings of the Parliament, which makes amend for your father’s long absence”
Then in the February, she wrote “I rejoice that your father is well, and that is my comfort in his absence. I could wish I could undergo some of the pains for him, but I would have him act the understanding part”
In March she wrote “I hope that the Lord will give your father double strength to undergo the weight of these employments which lie on him”.
The Brave Defence of Brampton Bryan Castle by Lady Brilliana Harley
Loyalist Herefordshire was in some turmoil, and Lady Brilliana found herself facing resentment and even hatred wherever she went – she was threatened with an assault on Brampton Castle, and was frightened for her own safety being alone with no friends, and without her husband or son. At first she wanted to leave the castle to its fate, and was horrified by the hate and abuse assailing her husband and herself, although she herself had done nothing to merit it.
However, she squared her shoulders and resolved to stay to defend the castle and contents for as long as she could, despite the fact that she was unwell and of mild character. Firstly she set about stocking weapons and ammunition, but initially had problems because although the powder and matches arrived, there was no sign of the muskets. She had been told that only qualified people could make the shot, so she asked a plumber to write to Worcester in the hope that it could be kept secret. She ordered fifty weight of shot, but worried that it might not be enough, and asked her son to ask her husband about it. She also wrote to her husband Sir Robert, pleading for instructions as to how best to defend herself when attacked.
One has to wonder whether she was hoping that Sir Robert would order her away from Herefordshire, given that she wrote to her son asking him to ask her husband whether she had enough shot, and then wrote to her husband asking how to defend herself……whether this was the case or not, no such order was given and she declared that she was unafraid and put her faith in God. Her health was failing, but her courage deepened when the danger grew – everyone was against her, and the harassment increased; the collecting of her rents was banned, and all her horses were taken away; nobody was allowed to leave the castle and in December 1642 she wrote a letter to her son outlining her sorrow and distress. She feared that the stockpiles of food would run out, and that the barns would be burnt.
The Marquis of Hertford threatened her with a siege, but it never happened and she was understandably very relieved and put it down to God’s work. A council of war was held in Hereford, and it was determined to blow up Brampton Castle, but the troops who were to carry this out had to go to help the besieging forces at Gloucester so once again Brilliana and the castle was reprieved, although the intimidation continued unabated.
Coningsby, Governor of Hereford, and other Royalists swore to drive away her cattle and starve her out, but Brilliana kept her faith in God. She wrote another letter – “their aim is to enforce me to let those men I have, go, that then they might seize upon my house and cut our throats by a few rogues, and then say they knew not who did it; for so they say they knew not who drove away the six colts, but Mr. Coningsby keeps them, though I have written to him for them. They have used all means to let me have no man in my house, and tell me that then I shall be safe, but I have no cause to trust them”
Brilliana was asked to surrender, with a threat of being treated as a traitor and attacked as such, but she remained defiant saying that as long as her husband wanted her to defend the castle then she would do so, but her situation was becoming dire……..food was running out, and everyone was against her. Remarkably, the castle once again escaped attack when at the battle of Highnam the Royalists were defeated by the Parliamentary forces, and other defeats followed including the surrender of Hereford. For the moment, Brampton Castle was safe and Brilliana could gather her wits and some more provisions.
On 25th July Brilliana and her small band of followers prayed to God for help as they faced the enemy gathered at the base of the castle led by Sir William Vavasour. The attack was terrible; all the castle buildings were destroyed, including the mill some distance away; the parish church; the parsonage and numerous other houses. Disgust was later voiced at the way that the besiegers poisoned a stream which supplied the village with water, and shot a cook with a poisoned bullet.
Brilliana wrote again to her son, telling him that William Vavasour had left after the attack, leaving Mr. Lingen with the soldiers and she was praying that she would not fall into their hands. Fortunately, at the end of six long weeks, the besiegers left.
The End of Brilliana and Brampton Bryan Castle
In October 1643, Brilliana wrote to her son Ned informing him that she had a horrible cold, and expressing hope that the Lord would make her better – unfortunately she grew more ill, and on 31lst October 1643 she died of pneumonia.
In the spring of 1644, Brampton Bryan castle fell to the Royalists after another siege, and was destroyed, but the Royalist cause was lost and Sir Robert Harley was given today’s equivalent of over a million pounds in compensation for the destruction of his home.
General George Staunton
Before 1881, Brampton Bryan was spelt Brampton Brian and was listed as partly being in Radnorshire, and in 1871 the occupants of Brampton Bryan Hall were General George Staunton, his wife Henrietta (nee Cooper) and their seven children. They married on 15th November 1859, and George died on 4th April 1880. He was invested as a Companion, Order of the Bath.
George and Henrietta married on 15th November 1859, and had their first two children in South Africa before returning to England. Although they lived at Brampton Bryan Hall for several years, they were probably renting from the Harleys, who never relinquished ownership.
Brampton Bryan Hall Household – 1871
|George Staunton||62||Major General||b. London|
|Henrietta Staunton||37||Wife||b. London|
|Mary E. Staunton||9||Daughter||b. Cape of Good Hope|
|Gertrude A. Staunton||7||Daughter||b. Cape of Good Hope|
|Beatrice A. Staunton||5||Daughter||East Allington, Devon|
|Henrietta Staunton||4||Daughter||b. Somerset|
|William B. Staunton||2||Son||b. Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire|
|Ethel C. Staunton||2||Daughter||b. Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire|
|Edward M. Staunton||10 months||Son||b.Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire|
|William Jones||52||Butler||b. Seven Oaks, Kent|
|Jane Jones||36||Housekeeper||b. Bath|
|Emily M. Roberts||27||Nurse||b. Salop|
|Emma A. Pafsey (?)||27||Upper Housemaid||b. Bockleton, Worcestershire|
|Elizabeth A. Warren||17||Under Nurse||b. Gloucestershire|
|Frances R. Roberts||17||Under Nurse||b. Salop|
|Ann Evans||20||Under Housemaid||b. Talgarth, Brecon|
|Gemma Allen||22||Kitchenmaid||b. Haverford West, Wales|
Brampton Bryan Hall Household – 1881
|Robert W.D. Harley||35||Landowner||b. Pontypool, Monmouthshire|
|Patience A Harley||26||Wife||b. Eye, Herefordshire|
|Robert G.G. Harley||1||Son||b. London|
|Augusta M. Rodney||62||Visitor||b. Cheltenham|
|Jane Rowberry||42||Nurse||b. Leintwardine, Herefordshire|
|Henry Lincoln||36||Butler||b. Yorkshire|
|Ann Parkinson||34||Lady’s Maid||b. Lancashire|
|Annie Taylor||35||Cook||b. Tirley, Herefordshire|
|Susan Barron||25||Housemaid||b. Devonshire|
|Ellen Tantrum||17||Nurse||b. Shropshire|
|Henry W.P. Humphreys||35||Groom||b. London|
|Samuel R. Evans||17||Stable Boy||b. Shobdon, Herefordshire|
Brampton Bryan Hall Household – 1891
|Robert W.D. Harley||43||J.P. living on own means||b. Pontypool, Monmouthshire|
|Patience A. Harley||36||Wife||b. Berrington, Leominster, Herefordshire|
|Robert G.G. Harley||11||Son, private scholar||b. London|
|Dorothy Harley||9||Daughter, private scholar||b. Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire|
|Sybil Harley||7||Daughter, private scholar||b. Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire|
|Patience Harley||5||Daughter||b. Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire|
|John R.H. Harley||2||Son||b. Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire|
|Alice Jervis||30||Governess||b. Surrey|
|Bernard Pears||24||Tutor||b. Surrey|
|Mary J. Richards||45||Cook||b. Dudleston, Salop|
|Annie Davidson||28||Nurse||b. Berrington, Leominster, Herefordshire|
|Euphenua Robertson||26||Lady’s Maid||b. St. Andrews, Edinburgh|
|John Timpson||32||Butler||b. Yorkshire|
|Joseph J. Hughes||21||Footman||b. Wigmore, Herefordshire|
|Annie E. Jones||31||Housemaid||b. Richards Castle, Herefordshire|
|Sarah Stubbs||26||Kitchen Maid||b.Montgomeryshire Castle|
|Louise Frances||16||Nursery Maid||b. Radnorshire|
|Mary E. Watkins||19||Housemaid||b. New Invention, Salop|
|Jane E. Sprag||20||Scullery Maid||b. Chatwall, Salop|
|Edward Hughes||24||Groom||b. Berrington, Herefordshire|
|Charles Watts||18||Boy||b. Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire|
Brampton Bryan Hall Household – 1901
|Thomas W. Wood||31||Butler||b. Darlington, Durham|
|Phoebe Simpkin||33||Cook||b. Kimberley, Nottinghamshire|
|Martha F. Sutton||22||Lady’s Maid||b. Salop|
|Frederic R. Thomas||20||Footman||b. Frome, Somerset|
|James Griffiths||14||Hall Boy||b. Salop|
|Rose E. Fry||26||Housemaid||b. Devon|
|Agnes Cartlidge||21||Housemaid||b.Stoke Heath, Salop|
|Agnes V. Hall||18||Housemaid||b. Bucknell, Herefordshire|
|Christina Morgan||16||Kitchenmaid||b. Dundee|
|Catherine Griffiths||24||Scullery Maid||b. Bicton Heath, Salop|
|Alfred Davies||26||Groom||b. Astley Abbott, Salop|