Hampton Court


Hampton Court, Herefordshire, is an evocative fifteenth-century crenellated manor house on the banks of the river Lugg, a tributary of the Wye, south of the market town of Leominster.  The land was listed in the Domesday Book as ‘Hantone’ – indicating land at the confluence of two rivers, in this case the Lugg and the Humber Brook which today runs to the east of the house.


The land was given by King Henry IV to Rowland Leinthall, his Yeoman of the Robes who had married a relation of the king’s, Lady Margaret Fitz Alan, grand-daughter of the prodigiously wealthy Richard, 13th Earl of Arundel.  Leinthall was granted licence to crenellate (the best indication of when work on Hampton Court began) in 1434 by Henry VI. 


Leinthall was also probably knighted on his marriage, and in 1415, Sir Rowland Leinthall contributed to Henry V’s force at Agincourt, twelve mounted men and thirty-six of the Welsh borderlands’ incomparable archers. Popular tale has it that the building was financed by the ransoms of prisoners taken by Leinthall at the pivotal battle.  More prosaically it seems that much of his wealth must have come from the death of his brother in law, the 15th Earl of Arundel during the campaign.  As a result of her brother’s death, Leinthall’s wife inherited a one-third share of Arundel’s wealth.  In 2000, it was estimated that her grandfather had been the second richest man of the entire millennium.  Lady Margaret and Sir Rowland Leinthall had a son Edmund, and so Lady Margaret’s share of the Fitz Alan fortune came to the Leinthall family, enabling the construction of this quadrangular fortified house.


Lady Margaret Fitz Alan never saw the house, however, as she died in 1422.  Sir Rowland remarried, Lucy Grey, daughter of Richard, 4th Lord Grey of Codnor.  The house remained in the Leinthall family until its sale in 1510.  From 1510 until 1810, Hampton Court was in the possession of ten generations of the Coningsby family.  Most notable among them were Sir Thomas Coningsby (1550-1625) Elizabethan courtier and friend of Sir Philip Sidney, and Sir Thomas’ great-grandson Thomas, Lord Coningsby, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and a Privy Councillor to William III.  Indeed, on the eve of the Battle of the Boyne (1690) it was Thomas who staunched the wound that King William sustained on his shoulder.  Coningsby kept the ensanguined handkerchief ever after in an ebony casket at Hampton Court.


Lord Coningsby’s grand-daughter married the fourth Earl of Essex and it was their son George Capel Coningsby, the fifth Earl who sold Hampton Court in 1810.  The house and estate were then bought by Richard Arkwright (1755-1843) son of the great industrialist and inventor of the factory system, Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-1792).   Richard the younger was said to be the richest commoner in Europe, and his purchase of landed estates was undertaken at least as much for diversification of his investment portfolio as it was for the aggrandizement of his six sons.  It was his fourth son, John, who came to live at Hampton Court in around 1814.  He oversaw extensive renovations to the house in the 1830s-40s to accommodate his twelve children, renovations which often fool the casual observer into thinking that Hampton Court is a Victorian castle and not a genuine medieval manor house. 


John’s son Johnny (1833-1905) and grandson Jack (1872-1954) succeeded him at Hampton Court, but owing to the events described in Champagne and Shambles, the family was forced to sell the estate in 1912, 102 years after they had bought it. 


Mrs Nancy Burrell, from Northumberland, bought the house from the Arkwrights, most likely for the fishing, about which she was fanatical.  However, she lost her husband in the First World War, (during which she ran Hampton Court as a hospital) and was obliged to sell the house in 1924.


The Devereux family, Viscounts Hereford, next owned the house, from 1924 until 1972.  They had ancient connections with this part of Herefordshire, and given their title, their ownership of what had been the county’s largest estate seemed particularly fitting.  However, the heir, Robert pre-deceased his father in 1934, and the purchasers’ grandson, the 18th Viscount, Milo struggled to maintain the crumbling house in the difficult mid-century years.  In 1972, just before the country house renaissance of the last quarter of the twentieth century, he decided to sell Hampton Court.  It took three days to dispose of the contents.


Since 1972, the house has changed hands more times than during the previous 550 years put together.  The estate has also correspondingly shrunk and expanded in size.  Successive owners were the Trustees of the 3rd Viscount Hambledon (WH Smith heirs) from 1972-74, Tournament Enterprises – Mr Paul Cooke a property developer (1974-75), Mr George Hughes (1975-1987), Mr and Mrs James Folkes who did much to improve the shooting on the estate (1987-1994), Sola Scriptura (1994-2008) a trust founded by American Robert van Kampen who made his fortune on Wall Street, and since January 2008 by property developer, Graham Ferguson Lacey.


Under the Van Kampens, the house and gardens received extensive renovation and improvement.  The gardens were also opened to the public for the first time in 2000, after redesign to the plans of David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell.  They became immediately popular, assisted by a series of inspirational family events in particular, including most memorably a living nativity (bad-tempered camel in the kitchen quad) and Easter Egg hunts.  The gardens remain open today and can be visited.  For full details, see www.hamptoncourt.org.uk.