Hylton Castle

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Hylton Castle
    The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham: volume 2: Chester ward (1820) by Robert Surtees

    In 1332 and 1335, Alexander de Hilton had summons to parliament, which was never repeated in any of his descendants. After a series of twenty descents, stretching through five centuries, the family was nearly ruined, by the improvident posthumous generosity of Henry Hilton Esq, who appears to have been so much under the influence both of vanity and melancholy, as might, in these days of equity, have occasioned serious doubts as to the sanity of his disposing mind. This gentleman had several years before, on some disgust, deserted the seat of his ancestors, and lived in obscure retirement, first at the house of a remote kinsman at Billinghurst in Sussex, and afterwards at Mitchel-grove, where he died. By will dated 26 February, 1640–1, he devised the whole of his paternal estate for ninety-nine years, to the Lord Mayor and four senior Aldermen of the City of London, on trust to pay during the same term, 24l. yearly to each of thirty-eight several Parishes or townships in Durham, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex, and Newcastle on Tyne; 28l. per annum to the Mayor of Durham, and 50l. per annum to the Vicar of Monk-Wearmouth : he then leaves an annuity of 100l. to his next brother Robert Hilton, and to his heirs; and 50l. per annum to his brother John Hilton, which last sum is to cease, if he succeed to the larger annuity as heir of Robert: all the residue and increase of his rents he gives to the City of London, charging them to bind out yearly five children of his own kindred to some honest trade; and further he desires them to raise 4000l. out of the rents, to remain in the City Chamber during ninety-nine years, and the interest to be applied in binding out orphan children born on the manors of Ford, Biddick, and Barmston. After the expiration of that term, he devises the whole of his estates, with the encreased rents and also the same 4000l. to his heir at law, provided he be not such an one as shall claim to be the issue of the testator’s own body. He then gives several legacies to his servants, and to the family of Shelley of Michell-grove; declares that he has 3000l. on good bonds in London; appoints the Lady Jane Shelley to be his Executrix, and desires burial in St. Paul’s Cathedral, “under a fair tumbe like in fashion to the tumbe of Dr. Dunne,” for which purpose he leaves 1000l. to his Executrix, who never complied with the injunction.

    Henry Hilton left a window (not named in his will,) who re-married Sir Thomas Smith, said to have been an active and intriguing man, of considerable influence during the Usurpation. Robert Hilton, the next brother to Henry, survived him only a few months, and he also left a widow, whose second husband Sir Thomas Hallyman, obtained in compensation of her dower a life-estate in the manor of Ford. The Will itself produced, as was most likely, litigations and chancery in suits in abundance; and under all these circumstances, the estate, or rather the shadow of the estate, vested in John Hilton, the seventh and sole surviving brother of Henry. The civil wars burst out in the same year 1641, and John Hilton periled the reliques of his inheritance in the royal cause. Himself and his son bore the commissions of Colonel and of Captain in the Marquis of Newcastle’s army. The estate of Hilton, placed exactly between the royal army and the Scots under Lesley, was plundered and wasted by both parties; and, on the final ruin of the royal cause, the Hiltons, included in the list of malignants, were totally disabled from struggling at law or equity, either with the rebel City of London, or with the two Knights who had espoused the worse, then the better cause. The wonder is, that from such a state of things the family ever emerged at all; but the younger John Hilton (who succeeded to the claims of his father in 1658) seems to have possessed a share of prudence and quiet perseverance very unusual in a ruined Cavalier. The very litigations of Sir Thomas Smith with the City Chamber, though they tore the estate in pieces, whilst the heir starved, had eventually a favourable effect. The Citizens of London, who derived very little direct advantage from the will of their singular benefactor, were wearied out with the contest; and after the Restoration an amicable decree was pronounced, by which the possession of the estates was restored to the heir, on condition that he should discharge all the particulars of the trust created by the will of Henry Hilton, should make regular payment of the several parochial charities, and satisfy the claims of the two dowagers Under these sore incumbrances Mr. Hilton took the management of his own property; but the rents, wasted as the estate had been for twenty years, were totally inadequate to the charges; and it was found necessary to reduce the whole of the payments one third, in proportion to the actual state of the rent-roll, leaving still a very sufficient burthen to exercise the prudence and patience of the family, both which useful qualities they seem to have possessed in a very exemplary degree.

    From this period the ancient Barons of Hilton, no longer distinguished by extended possessions or extraordinary influence, retreated, without degradation of blood or of honour, into the quiet ranks of private gentry. Three successive chiefs of Hilton were not more respected for their ancient and undoubted descent, than for the prudent and unostentatious simplicity with which they supported the fallen fortunes of their house, without meanness, and without vain regret or misplaced pride. Their names do not even occur in the list of Parliamentary Representation, and they received rather than claimed from the general courtesy of the country acknowledged rank of the first untitled gentry of the North, of noblesse without the peerage. The last Baron, a man of mild and generous disposition, though of reserved habits, is still remembered with a mingles sentiment of personal respect and of that popular feeling, which even ill conduct can scarcely extinguish, towards the last representative of a long and honourable line, unstained by gross vice, and unsullied by dishonour.
    John Hilton, Esq. (great-grandson of John in 1658,) died 25th Sept. 1746. By will dated 6 Nov. 1739, he devised all his estates to his nephew, Sir Richard Musgrave, of Hayton Castle, Bart. on condition of assuming the name of Hilton only. Within a few years afterwards the whole of the estates were sold under an act of Parliament.

    The Castle and Manor of Hilton were contracted for by — Wogan, Esq. for 30,000l. but the sale was never perfected, and they were soon after sold to Mrs. Bowes, widow of George Bowes, Esq. of Streatlam and Gibside, whose grandson, John Earl of Strathmore, is the present proprietor.

    The family estate of Hilton included, at its highest point of elevation, the manors of Hilton, Barmston, Grindon, Ford, Clowcroft, North Biddick, Great Usworth, and Follonsby, in the county of Durham; Carnaby and Wharram-Percy in the county of York; Elryngton and Woodhall in Northumberland; and Aldstone Moor in Northumberland and Cumberland; with the advowsons of Kyrkhaulgh and Monk-Wearmouth.

    Hilton, Ford, Great Usworth, and Follonsby, the impropriate Rectory of Monk-Wearmouth, and a leasehold estate there, were sold at the final dispersion of the property, after the death of the last Baron. Grindon, North Biddick, and Barmston, had been alienated sometime earlier, and the extensive domain of Alston Moor, fell and moss and mine, which came by the line of Vipont and Stapylton, was sold by Hendry Hilton, the melancholy Baron, in 1618.

    I am unable to trace the fate of the Yorkshire and Northumbrian property, as well as that of an estate in Wiltshire, mentioned in the will of Henry Hilton, 1640.

    The Bank-head, or Bank-farm, part of Hilton estate, was purchased by the family of Pemberton at the general sale, and is now, by subsequent conveyance, the property of Robert Ready, Esq. who has built a neat mansion-house, called Hilton Place.

    Hilton Castle was a few years ago (after standing long untenanted) the residence of the friendly and hospitable Simon Temple, Esq. The Castle is now occupied by Thomas Wade, Esq.

    Every castle, tower, or manor-house, has its visionary inhabitants. “The cauld lad of Hilton” belongs to a very common and numerous class, the Brownie , or domestic spirit; and seems to have possessed no very distinctive attributes. He was seldom seen, but was heart nightly by the servants who slept in the great hall. If the kitchen had been left in perfect order, they heard him amusing himself by breaking plates and dishes, hurling the pewter in all directions, and throwing every thing into confusion. If, on the contrary, the apartment had been left in disarray (a practice which the servants found it most prudent to adopt), the indefatigable goblin arranged every thing with the greatest precision. This poor esprit folet, whose pranks were at all times perfectly harmless, was at length banished from his haunts by the usual expedient of presenting him with a suit of cloaths. A green cloak and hood were laid before the kitchen fire, and the domestics sat up watching at a prudent distance. At twelve o’clock the sprite glided gently in, stood by the glowing embers, and surveyed the garments provided for him very attentively, tried them on and seemed delighted with his appearance, frisking about for some time, and cutting several summersets and gambados, till, on hearing the first cook he twitched his mantle tight about him, and disappeared with the usual valediction:

    Here’s a cloke, and here’s a hood,
    The cauld lad o’ Hilton will do no more good.

    The genuine Brownie, however, is supposed to be, ab origine, an unembodied spirit; but the boy of Hilton has, with an admixture of English superstition, been identified with the apparition of an unfortunate domestic, whom one of the old chiefs of Hilton slew at some very distant period, in a moment of wrath or intemperance. The Baron had, it seems, on an important occasion, ordered his horse, which was not brought out so soon as he expected; he went to the stable, found the boy loitering, and seizing a hayfork, struck him, thought not intentionally, a mortal blow. The story adds, that he covered his victim with straw till night, and then threw him in to the pond, where the skeleton of a boy was (in confirmation of the tale) discovered in the last Baron’s time I am by no means clear that the story may not have its foundation in the fast recorded in the following inquest:

    Coram Johanne King, Coron. Wardæ de Chestre, apud Hilton, 3 Jul. 7 Jac. 1609.

    Inquisitio super visum corporis Rogeri Skelton, ibi jacentis mortui. Jurati presentant quod Robertus Hilton, de Hilton, Gen. die et anno supradictis inter horas 8 et 9 ante meridiem falcans gramen cum quadam falce Anglice a Syth ad valenc. xxd. quam ipse in manibus suis tenuit, eundem Rogerum stantem à tergo casu infortunii cum acie ejusd. falcis, Anglice the Syth point, percussit supra dextrum femur ejusd. Rogeri unam plagam mortalem longam unius pollicis et lat. duor. pollic. ex qua plaga idem Rogerus eadem hora mortuus ibidem obiit: et quod casu et non aliter, &c.

    Nevertheless, I strongly suspect that the unhousel’d spirit of Roger Skelton, “whom in the hay-field the good Hilton ghosted,” took the liberty of playing a few of those pranks which are said by writers of grave authority to be the peculiar privilege of those spirits only who are shouldered untimely by violence from their mortal tenements:

    Ling’ring in anguish o’er his mangled clay,
    The melancholy shadow turn’d away,
    And follow’d through the twilight grey,—his guide.

    A free pardon for the above man-slaughter appears on the rolls of Bishop James, dated 6 Sept. 1609.

  2. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Hylton Castle
    English Fairy and Other Folk Tales by Edwin Sidney Hartland [1890]

    HILTON HALL, in the vale of the Wear, was in former times the resort of a Brownie or House-spirit, called The Cauld Lad. Every night the servants who slept in the great hail heard him at work in the kitchen, knocking the things about if they had been set in order, arranging them if otherwise, which was more frequently the case. They were resolved to banish him if they could, and the spirit, who seemed to have an inkling of their design, was often heard singing in a melancholy tone:

    “Wae’s me! wae’s me!
    The acorn is not yet
    Fallen from the tree,
    That’s to grow the wood,
    That’s to make the cradle,
    That’s to rock the bairn,
    That’s to grow to a man,
    That’s to lay me.”

    The servants, however, resorted to the usual mode of banishing a Brownie: they left a green cloak and hood for him by the kitchen fire, and remained on the watch. They saw him come in, gaze at the new clothes, try them on, and, apparently in great delight, go jumping and frisking about the kitchen. But at the first crow of the cock he vanished, crying:

    “Here’s a cloak, and here’s a hood!
    The Cauld Lad of Hilton will do no more good;”
    and he never again returned to the kitchen; yet it was said that he might still be heard at midnight singing those lines in a tone of melancholy.

    There was a room in the castle long called the Cauld Lad’s Room, which was never occupied unless the castle was full of company, and within the last century many persons of credit had heard of the midnight wailing of the Cauld Lad, who some maintained was the spirit of a servant whom one of the barons of Hilton had killed unintentionally in a fit of passion.
    1) T . Keightley, The Fairy Mythology, p. 296, quoting M. A. Richardson The Local Historian’s Table Book.