Shobdon Court was built in the early 18th century when it was bought from Robert Chaplin by Sir James Bateman, and was similar in design to Clarendon House in London; it was hugely improved in the mid 1800s, and then further altered towards the end of the 19th century.


Description of Shobdon Court

The house was quadrangular, and built of brick, sitting on the side of a hill with extensive views over glorious countryside. The grounds were wonderfully parklike, with many woods and lakes. Many of the trees were fine specimens, including an enormous beech tree, and the flower gardens were impressive too, and contained many rustic baskets filled with plants – made by a Mr. Mearns who was gardener at the Court for many years.

The kitchen garden was fairly close to the mansion, but hidden from it by the stables and servants quarters, and although the soil was reported to be good the steepness of the slope on which it was situated must have made life hard for the gardeners and for the kitchen staff!
A rather scathing description went thus:
“The arrangement of its area is much after the usual fashion, except that the melon ground is not detached as in most gardens, but its unsightly dung beds stand in company with several paltry little vine and pine pits, in one of the most conspicuous parts of the garden. There is likewise, a small space devoted to flowers by the side of the main walk that leads to the hot houses. The principal hot houses stand against the north boundary wall. Formerly, these consisted of a large greenhouse, a peach house for early forcing and a vinery for late grapes. Lately however, the ugly old greenhouse has been taken down and a spacious handsome new building erected in its stead under the direction of Mr. Crogan the present gardener.”
Sadly it was demolished in 1933, although the Georgian brick stables, dovecote and gate piers remain intact.

News from Shobdon Court

Sir James Bateman 1660 -1780

Sir James Bateman – the wealthy financier

Sir James Bateman was a hugely successful financier, and clearly had an impressive head for business from an early age, learning much of his trade from his father. In the mid 1600s he lived in Alicante where he made a great deal of money trading wine; following this he returned to London to further swell his coffers by importing wine.
As his wealth grew, he became one of the founding Directors of the Bank of England in 1694, and in the following year, possibly thinking that being an MP would be helpful in his quest for influence and power, he stood against Sir Edward Seymour, Tory candidate for Totnes but suffered a crushing defeat.

House of Commons Inquiry into Bateman’s involvement with the Company of Scotland

In 1695 there was a House of Commons inquiry which told of James Bateman’s contradictory answers regarding his involvement in the Company of Scotland, and eventually he was found guilty of several crimes. A Committee was ordered to serve impeachements on him, but somehow this never happened and everything was swept under the carpet.
James became a founding Director of the New East India Company and was subsequently knighted, but he still hankered after being an MP and stood at St. Mawes – he failed again.

More dodgy dealings by Sir James Bateman

On the death of his father in 1704, he inherited vast amounts of property (as if he wasn’t wealthy enough!) and went on to buy the manor of Shobdon which he took as his own country seat.
Sir James continued to campaign as a Whig candidate, but at the next election once again suffered defeat, however his strong friendship with Robert Harley (who wanted James’ money to fund the government in the City) eventually caused strings to be pulled in the background, and when Ilchester came up for grabs in the election, Harley made sure that James won the seat – rather an achievement when James wasn’t even there, but it ensured that he helped out with the finances.

Death of Sir James Bateman

Sir James died of “gout of the stomach” in Soho Square in 1718, – he left a vast sum of money and many valuable properties, one of which, Shobdon Court, he left to his eldest son William, who became a Viscount.
His son, John, the second Viscount, gave the care of the estate to his brother Richard who took it upon himself to renovate Shobdon church in 1751. When John died, the title of Viscount died with him, and Shobdon estate passed to William Hanbury, a relative.
William Hanbury’s wife gave birth to a son at Shobdon Court in 1835, and the estate was passed down through this family who added Bateman to their name (Bateman-Hanbury), until the third Lord Bateman died in 1931. He had suffered a long illness and passed away in a Paris nursing home at the age of 75.
By his death the peerage became extinct as his only brother and heir presumptive, the Hon, Charles Stanhope Melville Bateman Hanbury had died a short time before.

Coach Parcel lost in 1833

“A hamper of game and fruit was sent from the seat of W. Hanbury Esq., Shobdon Court, by the Coronet Coach from the Lion Inn, Leominster, directed to a gentleman in North Wales, which was never received. The disappointment to the parties was of much more consequence than the loss of the contents, and Mr. Hanbury was determined to make the proprietors pay the value of the articles lost, or an action would immediately be commenced. On Friday, all expenses were paid by one of the proprietors of the above coach.”

Lord and Lady Bateman set a noble example in 1840

In 1840, Lord and Lady Bateman gave a dinner to the 40 girls and boys of their school at Christmas; also to the poor of the neighbourhood of Shobdon Court, a fat cow.
They weekly distributed to the poor, good soup and a hundred weight of coal.
It was reported that “His Lordship has ordered the wages of the agricultural labourers to be raised to 10s per week…….these great acts of benevolence are above all praise.”

Flood at Shobdon Court in 1849

Near to Shobdon Court there were several ornamental lakes and pools, one of which was remarkable for the “ sombre character of the sylvan shade that at all times spreads a gloom and stillness over its waters.” Another was described as being like a canal.

Heavy rain starts the flood

A night of very heavy rain filled the upper pools faster than the gutters for waste water could remove it, and it eventually burst the embankment of one pool. The water rushed down into a lower pool and then on into the fish pool of Rev. W. Wareing. It then thundered on to the Batemans Arms Inn, after which it took away the parapet of a bridge; destroyed a stone wall and swept away a horse and cart – although thankfully the horse was later rescued safely. The water swept on, and cleared a dairy of all the contents, as well as sweeping clean a barn floor which held the produce of four days work with the flail.
A witness described the flood as being “like a lot of hogsheads rolling over one another”.
A man at work in the barn became worried enough to secure his cider bottle before making his escape via a wall to the top of a fence post. Eventually the flood receded , and in relief he started swigging from his cider bottle as he sat on his post awaiting rescue. What a lovely picture!

Fire at Shobdon Court in 1854

Off one corner of the main building is another block containing offices; kitchens and servants apartments and it was here that the fire started. The estate secretary, Mr. Laver, was sitting in his office during the early evening, when he heard a crackling noise, and on going outside saw smoke and flames coming from the roof. Many female servants were in this building, so Mr. Laver immediately telegraphed to Leominster for the fire brigade – some eight miles away.
Mr. Laver removed important papers and books, and some documents of enormous value, was well as managing to save some of the furniture. (No mention of saving the servants though!)

Spectators at the fire help to contain it

The commotion and alarm attracted hundreds of spectators and many of them volunteered to form a line to the horse pool some forty yards away, and soon buckets of water were being rapidly passed hand to hand up to the building, where men on ladders were waiting the throw the water over the flames. For three long hours they kept up this exhausting work, and managed to contain the fire somewhat until the fire brigade arrived.

Melancholy suicide of husband of Lord Bateman’s sister

In 1857 it was reported as “a very painful event, which in its associations challenges the sympathy of our readers for the members of a distinguished county family”.
Major Warburton M.P. for the borough of Harwich, shot himself at his house at Frant. A doctor was quickly called, but he was superfluous as the Major was dead. He was a brother of Eliot Warburton, and a retired Major of Artillery; he married in 1853 the Hon Elizabeth Augusta Hanbury, daughter of the first and sister of the present Lord Bateman, Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire.
He was only 41, and apart from his political position was a writer of some success, being the author of “Hochelaga” and “The Conquest of Canada” (no, I have never heard of them either).

Shobdon Court following Transformation in 1858

The Right Hon. Lord Bateman undertook a project to entirely transform Shobdon Court – the 17th century house was formerly of red brick and was just a block with an underground passage connecting it to another block which housed the offices. As will be seen, he might just as well have pulled the place down entirely and started again from scratch.

The new additions

New erections included a dairy; larders; sheds for coal and wood; a washhouse; drying room; laundry; brew house etc. A steam boiler was installed in the wash house, which was to heat the hot closets and plates in the kitchen, as well as to boil meat and vegetables in the scullery and to heat the drying room. It would also boil 500 gallons of water in the cistern at the top of the ventilation tower. However, the most important use of all for this boiler was to serve the wash and brew houses; it was intended to boil the clothes by steam, the tube having a steam jacket round it for this purpose, dispensing altogether with coppers. The fire under the boiler would also be used to heat the fixed iron plate which heated the flat irons in the laundry.
The brewing house was thoroughly renovated and brought up to date so that manual labour was minimised.
In the main house, all fittings etc. were made to be as convenient as possible, and pipes were run from the still room fire to the various housemaids’ closets, bath rooms and sinks in the butler’s pantry to provide hot water.

A new water supply for Shobdon Court

The house was supplied with water from a reservoir up on the hill, which ran into a large tank in the roof and from there supplied to all parts of the building, and numerous fire plugs were fixed on the outside of the house which owing to the height of the reservoir, made the use of fire engines unnecessary.

Inside Shobdon Court totally refurbished

All the old chimney shafts were replaced with new brick, and cornice, open parapets, pedestals and finials were added to both the main house and the offices. All brickwork was painted and pointed, and windows were renovated with the old frames and sashes being removed and replaced with new wainscoat oak frames and single sheets of glass. The slates and timber of the roof was removed, and the floor boards and timbers replaced which enabled the height of the rooms to be increased by 2ft 6 inches. All of the plaster work was renewed, and many of the ceilings were replaced with costly and elegant designs.

Most of the doors, shutters, architrave mouldings, skirtings etc. were replaced, and the floors were laid with polished oak with parquet borders. The principal staircase was taken down, with a new dining room being formed out of the old staircase and billiard room (the drawing room became the billiard room). The old dining room and serving rooms became a drawing room and a boudoir.
The old entrance hall was turned into a saloon, with a huge skylight which was an absolute work of art.

At the new carriage entrance, a stone porch was built with an arcade on either side, and on the south front a vast terrace was built supported by wrought iron girders, and formed of a number of stone arches with cornice and open balustrades and flower vases on the pedestals. A flight of seven steps led down from the library door to the centre of the terrace, at each end of which was a flight of 20 wide and impressive steps connecting to the flower gardens.

The entire cost was estimated to be around £20,000, and amongst those involved were:
Messrs Ruddle and Thompson of Peterborough – general contractors
Messrs Haden of Trowbridge – hot water pipe supplier
Thomas of Birmingham – bell suppliers and hangers
Eunson of Wolverhampton – gas pipes and fittings
Hodgkin of Birmingham – iron tanks and skylights
Mr. Alexander Milne of Northampton – Architect

Fatal Accident at Shobdon Court during Transformation

In 1857, one of the workmen employed at Shobdon Court to effect the renovations met with a fatal accident.

The tragic decision

At the front of the building a brick arch was being erected, which in accordance with common custom was supported at the centre by a temporary framework of wood which was removed once the masonry had thoroughly set. However, because this framework was deemed to be needed elsewhere, they decided to remove it early and a number of men set about removing it. They didn’t get very far before the whole of the centre of the arch collapsed burying several men in stone.

The frantic effort to save lives

Word travelled fast back to Leominster where the families of most of the workmen lived, and in no time crowds of hysterical relatives turned up turning the scene into chaos and confusion. Eventually though, the uninjured workmen collected themselves and set about trying to free their colleagues – sadly two were already dead, one from suffocation and the other from multiple injuries, but six were rescued alive although badly hurt.
The two men who died were Edward Ellis and Thomas Jones; the injured men being Mr. Inch, foreman of carpenters; Richard Evans, Edward Morris, George Shore, William Bruce and one other.
It was reported that “every attention was paid to the sufferings of the survivors, whose groans were scarcely less painful than the distress of those who were bereaved by the accident”.

The inquest

The inquest was duly held before the Coroner N. Lanwarne Esq. and the following jurymen:
Hon. & Rev. Arthur A.B.Hanbury; Messrs. John Davies, James Irvine, Richard Galliers, Thomas Edwards, Peter Evans, James, Chapman, Richard Middleton, Thomas Seagrave, John Preece, Richard Yapp, John Woodrow and Thomas Skidmore.
The jury were taken to view the bodies, and witnesses gave their account of the event, with two bricklayers saying that they had done nothing untoward or wrong by removing the wooden framework so soon.

The verdict

The Coroner addressed the jury and after deliberation they returned verdicts of Accidental Death, with the expression of opinion that Mr. Todd should be cautioned not to use so much haste in striking arches under similar circumstances in the future.
In 1858 Election Intelligence reported that Captain the Hon. Charles Spencer Bateman Hanbury of Shobdon Court was elected for Leominster.


1847 – The Coming of Age of the Right Honourable Lord Bateman


The celebrations for this event had been going on for some considerable time,  and finally it was time for the festivities to centre on the “peasantry” and surrounding villages.


This is a wonderful snapshot of what constituted entertainment in the 1800s – what a shame that such days are now a thing of the past.


The day dawned pleasantly enough, but by 9 in the morning the rain began and for a while the activities were confined to indoors where the men were delighted to make use of the billiard table.  By early afternoon though, the rain cleared and the park guns were fired to summon the locals.  Much ale was handed out from the cellars of Shobdon Court.


The sports were held on The Hays, a part of Shobdon Park;  there was huge merriment on account of the now slippery ground.

Gurning Competition

Firstly, three “hideous looking fellows” grinned through horse collars with painted faces as they competed with each other for the worst face;   next came a ladies’ race, then the climbing of a greasy pole which proved to be rather a challenge – one chap used sand to try to gain more grip  but he still descended more rapidly than he went up!

Donkeyaster St. Leger

The fourth event was the Donkeyaster St. Leger which was open to any UK donkey;  each man or lady had to ride each other’s donkeys.  Three lovely animals with zebra painted stripes took part and there was great hilarity when one of the riders was unseated at speed.

Wheelbarrow Race

Next came a wheelbarrow race with five competitors who were blindfolded then led in a circle several times before starting at the word “off”.  They all went off in different directions and one poor chap took his barrow straight into the very cold lake.  Two managed to reach the goal, but being neck and neck managed to become hopelessly tangle with each other.

Pig Race

A well greased little pig, know for its speed, was released to gallop up the course to the top of the park.  Although there were many chasers at the start, few were left after a mile and the pig returned triumphant.  No person was allowed to catch the pig by any method except by the tail, and teeth were banned!

Another Donkey Race

Jockeys had to ride facing backwards – four donkeys took part, and only one rider managed to stay on board for the whole course.

Jumping in Sacks

For half a crown, competitors had to travel 50 yards in their sacks;  7 took part but only three finished.


There followed a race across the lake in brewing tubs;  bobbing for oranges;  hurdle races for men and then ladies;  and dipping in a treacle dish for sixpences with tied hands.



Farm at Shobdon Court

In 1891, Lord Bateman gave up his home farm along with his famous and celebrated herd of Hereford cattle and a superior flock of Shropshire sheep.
The Shobdon herd of Herefords was one of the oldest in the country, and represented the famous Oxhouse blood.
Marriage of Lord Bateman 1904
The betrothment of Lord Bateman to Mrs. Henry C. Knapp of New York City was announced

Shobdon Court Household 1851

John Wills 53 Butler b. Westminster
John Skye 27 Under Butler
William Elliott 25 Footman b. Gloucester
George Stokes 34 Servant b. Hereford
Mary Baily 35 Housekeeper b. Westminster
Charlotte Barrington 73 Visitor b. London
Sarah Yeomans 39 Laundry Maid b. Hereford
Martha Bird 27 Kitchen Maid b. Leominster, Herefordshire
Catherine Newman 22 Housemaid b. Salisbury
Ann Wall 22 Housemaid b. Hereford
Jane Hodges 22 Dairymaid b. Hereford

Shobdon Court Household 1871

William B.B. Hanbury 44 Peer of the Realm b. Northamptonshire
Lady Agnes B. Bateman 38 Wife b. London Middlesex
Maud F.B. Hanbury 15 Daughter b. London, Middlesex
William S.B. Hanbury 14 Son b. London, Middlesex
Evelyn A.B. Hanbury 12 Daughter b. London, Middlesex
Edward R.B. Hanbury 11 Son b. London, Middlesex
Gertrude E.B. Hanbury 10 Daughter b. London, Middlesex
Walter B. Hanbury 8 Son b. London, Middlesex
A.R.B. Hanbury 4 Daughter b. London, Middlesex
Geoffrey B. Hanbury 2 Son b. London, Middlesex
Margaret C.B. Hanbury 1 Daughter b. London, Middlesex
Louisa Smith 30 Governess, b. London, Middlesex
Frederick Cook 23 Shorthand Secretary b. South Cerney, Gloucestershire
John Giles 46 Butler
Samuel Sword 27 Under Butler b. Norfolk
Arthur ? 21 Footman, b. Boston
John Millington 31 Gardener b. Chester
Hannah Moxley 65 Housekeeper b. Flixton, Suffolk
Jeanette Corbett 31 Lady’s Maid b. Rotheram, Yorkshire
Hannah Evans 40 Head Nurse b. Shobdon, Herefordshire
Mary Gravenor 17 Nurse b. Wigmore, Herefordshire
Elizabeth Madger 17 Schoolroom Maid b. Dresden, Germany
Mary Rothrow 27 Housemaid b. Shobdon, Herefordshire
Emma Stanton 25 Housemaid b. London
Marion Rowling 19 Housemaid b. Lancashire

At this point on the census page, someone has stuck a piece of paper over the names of the remaining servants with the name of someone who was omitted from the schedule.  It is particularly annoying because beneath the names that it covers is an acre of blank paper where it could have been put without causing any harm.

Shobdon Court Household 1881

Maud F.B. Hanbury 25 Peer’s daughter, head in charge, b. London, Middlesex
Evelyn A.B. Hanbury 22 Peer’s daughter, sister, b. London, Middlesex
Gertrude E.B. Hanbury 20 Peer’s daughter, sister, b. London, Middlesex
Rachel A.S.D. Hanbury 5 Peer’s daughter, sister, b. Shobdon, Herefordshire
Mary Walton 42 Lady’s Maid b. Marylebone, Middlesex
Rachel Coster Farmer 53 Housekeeper b. Oswestry, Salop
Emily Webster 18 Lady’s Maid b. Suffolk
Emily Maria Harford 29 Housemaid b. Hampstead, Middlesex
Anne Francis 21 Housemaid b. Church Stretton, Herefordshire
Eliza A. Fulcher 17 Housemaid b. Ely, Cambridgeshire
Annie Maria Lewis 16 Housemaid b. Clehonger, Herefordshire
Mary Nash 18 Schoolroom Maid b. Radnorshire
Laura Agnes Holland 15 Stillroom Maid b. Almeley, Herefordshire
Eliza Overton 26 Kitchenmaid b. Staffordshire
Mary Ann Banks 20 Scullery Maid b. Bromfield, Salop
Sarah Keay 31 Laundry Maid b. Upton Magna, Salop
Elizabeth Price 25 Laundry Maid b. Kings Pyon, Herefordshire
Hannah Evans 21 Laundry Maid b. Upton Magna, Salop
William Denham 27 Private Secretary b. Clerkenwell, Middlesex
Samuel Dennis Little 32 Butler b. Hanley Castle, Worcestershire
John Exall 20 Usher b. Withington, Herefordshire
Walter James Brace 13 Butler’s boy b. Eardisland, Herefordshire
William B. Gledhill 27 Boarder, Organ Builder b. Dewsbury, Yorkshire


Shobdon Court Household 1891

William Bateman 64 Peer of the Realm b. London
William Laver 29 Private Secretary to Lord Bateman, b. Woburn Place, London
Arabella Brown 51 Cook b. Hertfordshire
Mary Petrice 38 Laundrymaid b. Scotland
Annie J. Hopton 30 Housemaid b. Puddleston, Herefordshire
Mary Fenton 21 Kitchenmaid b. Herefordshire
Catherine ? 19 Under Housemaid
William Almond 30 Butler b. Herefordshire
William Jones 20 Footman
Henry Garrood 21 Usher of the Hall, b. Suffolk

Shobdon Court Household 1901

Lord Bateman 74 Peer of the Realm
Frank Clarke 26 Man Servant b. Axminster, Devon
Alfred H. Gingell 15 Page Boy b. Newent, Gloucestershire
William Donovan 60 Odd Man b. St. Georges East, London
Annie J. Hopton 39 Housemaid b. Leominster, Herefordshire
Florence Porah 20 Housemaid b. Denbigshire
Mary Elliott 28 Laundrymaid b. Putney, Surrey
Bertha Jones 23 Kitchenmaid b. Denbighshire


Shobdon Court Household 1911

Annie Jane Hopton b. 1862 Puddleston, Herefordshire Housekeeper
Martha Armitage b. 1869 Enfield, Middlesex Laundry Maid

Shobdon Court Household 1921

B.R. Langham b. 1886 Cambridgeshire Butler
M. Young b. 1864 Glamorganshire, Wales Cook
C. Mansfield b. 1898 Norfolk Gamekeeper