Hatfield Court is some five miles from Leominster, and five from Bromyard; the original 17th century building is in a ruinous state, with a more modern house adjoining the old walls.
The first owner that I have found was Thomas Holder, who remained there until 1844 when he put all of his stock and farming equipment up for sale by auction. He had amassed an impressive herd of Herefordshire cattle, along with top class sheep and pigs, and 23 horses.
1841 – “A waggoner in the employ of Mr. Holder of Hatfield Court, accompanied by another countryman, left Leominster in a state of intoxication; when near the Etnam street Gate, they feel and, from the exposure, soon became inanimate; in this state their lives would surely have been forfeited to their imprudence and folly, had not Mr. Froysell, surgeon, passed at the time. That gentleman with the greatest kindness and humanity, had them conveyed to the Chequers Inn, where, with the greatest care and attention, after some hours, one of the men recovered, and the other, after still further trouble, was restored, and both are doing well. Too much praise cannot be bestowed on the fortunate and successful exertions of the medical gentleman Mr. Froysell.”
Hatfield Court Household and Servants 1841 census
|Thomas Holder||69||b. Herefordshire|
|Thomas Holder||45||b. Herefordshire|
|Mary Ann Holder||25||b. Herefordshire|
|Bettice Holder||20||b. Herefordshire|
|Ann Preece||20||b. Herefordshire|
|Maria Martin||20||b. Herefordshire|
|Richard Griffiths||15||b. Herefordshire|
|James Smith||24||b. Herefordshire|
|Joseph Martin||18||b. Herefordshire|
|John Pritchard||14||b. Herefordshire|
Hatfield Court Household and Servants 1861 census
|George Bedford||37||Farmer of 450 Acres b. Leominster, Herefordshire|
|Elizabeth Bedford||29||Wife b. Leominster, Herefordshire|
|George Francis Bedford||6||Son b. Leominster, Herefordshire|
|Agnes Elizabeth Bedford||4||Daughter b. Leominster, Herefordshire|
|Norah Bedford||2||Daughter b. Leominster, Herefordshire|
|Alice Bedford||1||Daughter b. Hatfield, Herefordshire|
|Sarah Strangward||52||Visitor, Widow b. Almeley, Herefordshire|
|Mary Wanklin||16||Servant b. Gladestry, Radnorshire|
|Sarah Howard||15||Servant b. Hatfield, Herefordshire|
|William Gord||19||Servant, Ag. Lab. b. Stoke Prior, Herefordshire|
|George Grafton||15||Servant b. Humber, Herefordshire|
|Richard Everill||13||Servant b. Leominster, Herefordshire|
Major John Howarth Ashton
By 1886, a certain Major John Howarth Ashton resided at Hatfield Court, which had by all accounts been previously occupied by his father, Mr. Thomas Ashton.
He was one of the earliest officers connected with the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry, in which corps he took great interest. He was also a Justice of the Peace in the counties of both Lancaster and Hereford and was also deputy lieutenant of Herefordshire.
Major John Howarth Ashton was a talented artist, having pictures exhibited at the Royal Academy, and he was a great dog lover, frequently being selected to judge dogs at shows.
The following newspaper article may give some further clue as to his character:
“Major Howarth Ashton of Hatfield Court, Leominster and Knight Harbinger of the Primrose League, is a man who really ought to receive some recognition from the Tory party. In the Hereford Journal appears the following Advertisement –
Four roomed cottage to be let. Substantially built and nearly new, with three quarters of an acre of land for garden. Rent £10. No radical need apply.”
“Whilst in the Hatfield Parish Magazine, a religious publication, the Major burst forth into the following verses:
He read the Lessons twice on Sunday last,
With voice as clear and strong as in the past.
O Grand Old Man, ere yet thou hear’st the knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.
Cease the grim farce (thy saintly antics shock
Religious minds) nor Gold Almighty mock.
The latest effort of thy waning years
To set a noble Empire by the ears;
Truth, justice, honour, trampled in the dust,
Office the object of thy senile lust.
No longer at the lecturn masquerade
Lest e’en the stones they hardihood upbraid.
They place is rather in the porch to stand,
Wrapped in a sheet, a taper in each hand.
With legend on thy breast, of all men seen –
“False to his friends, his country, and his Queen””.
Not sure that I understand all that, but there you go! He definitely seemed to be having a right royal dig at someone.
Death of Major John Howarth Ashton
Two years later in 1888, Major John Howarth Ashton died. The reporting of which was as follows:
“Quite a painful sensation was created in Leominster by the news of the sudden death of Major John Howarth Ashton, who for the past three years has been living on his late father’s property at Hatfield Court, Herefordshire. The circumstances of his demise were of a peculiarly painful character.
The Major had lived alone in the house for some time, but a fortnight ago he had to take to his bed, suffering from cold and gout. No danger was however, feared; but when his housekeeper took his breakfast to his bed on Wednesday morning she was horrified to find him quite dead. It has been decided to remove the body to Middleton, near Manchester, for burial in the family vault.”
At the inquest, the principal witness was the housekeeper who heard the deceased’s bell ring at 10 minutes to four in the morning. She dressed hurriedly and found him in bed, asking for a bottle of lager which he frequently drank. She fetched one for him and he apologised profusely for bothering her, but saying that he was not very well.
The housekeeper left, and returned at ten past nine with his breakfast, which is when she found him lying across the bed, apparently dead. She ran down stairs to tell her husband, before going back up to the bedroom when she noticed blood coming from the mouth of Major John, which had not been there before. The night before, he had cut his foot on some broken glass, and that had bled profusely both in his room and in the nursery where he went whilst she changed the sheets on his bed. She asked him at the time if he needed a doctor, but he refused. In fact, he would not see anyone. He took no medicine as far as she knew, and when she and the doctor later searched the room they found nothing suspicious to lead them to believe that he had taken anything wrong.
Mr. Edwards, a surgeon from Leominster, said that he examined the body but found no marks of violence. The Major had suffered from a kidney disease, and he had been attended several times for gout in the foot.
The surgeon considered the probably case of death was haemorrhagic apoplexy and there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances connected with the case.
Hatfield Court for sale in 1896
In 1896 Hatfield Court was put up for sale by the Trustees of Thomas Ashton, describing it thus:
“A very desirable Freehold property comprising Hatfield Court, a small and convenient mansion with stabling for six horses, suitable outbuildings, lawns, shrubberies and gardens, situated on high ground with good views overlooking the Black Mountains.”
Mr. Gibson Dyson came to Herefordshire from Manchester after retiring from his profession as a lecturer in Chemistry. He later moved from Hatfield Court to Brock Hall in Kimbolton, near Leominster.
Major Arthur Chambers
Major Arthur Chambers was born at Leamington Spa and was educated at Wellington College; from there he went to Woolwich where he joined the Royal Horse Artillery. He retired in 1892 with the rank of Major. He raised two batteries at Sheffield for the Boer War.
Major Chambers moved to Hatfield Court, Herefordshire in 1904 because he adored all the sporting activities in the County and was a subscriber to the North Hereford Hunt. In his youth he had been a Rugby player and cricketer, playing for England in the Rugby international match against Scotland in 1874, and it is said that he kicked the longest drop kick on record. Whether this record still stands I have no idea.
He was a Justice of the Peace and a member of the Leominster Board of Guardians and the Leominster Rural District Council.
He died at Hatfield Court in 1936 leaving his widow and two daughters.