Harlaxton Manor

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Coordinates: 52°52′50.56″N 0°40′16.67″W / 52.8807111°N 0.6712972°W / 52.8807111; -0.6712972

For the heritage house in Queensland, Australia, see Harlaxton House.
Harlaxton Manor

Harlaxton Manor, built in 1837, is a manor house located in Harlaxton, Lincolnshire, England. Its architecture, which combines elements of Jacobean and Elizabethan styles with symmetrical Baroque massing, renders the mansion unique among surviving Jacobethan manors.

The manor is a popular location for filming. Exterior and interior shots have been featured in the films The Ruling Class, The Last Days of Patton, The Lady and the Highwayman, The Haunting and The Young Visiters. More recently, the building was used as a site in the reality television series Australian Princess.

The manor currently serves as the British campus for the University of Evansville and partners with Eastern Illinois University and Western Kentucky University.


Harlaxton Manor in 1880

Harlaxton is first recorded in the Domesday Book as Harleston.

The current mansion is the second Harlaxton Manor. The first was built on a different site during the 14th century and was used as a hunting lodge by John of Gaunt. By 1619, Sir Daniel de Ligne purchased the manor.[1] The original house was deserted after 1780; it was inherited by Gregory Gregory, and was torn down in 1857.

The current house was built by Gregory from 1837 to 1845 and helped usher in a renaissance of Elizabethan architecture. The original architect, Anthony Salvin, was replaced by William Burn, who is responsible for its interior detailing. Upon Gregory's death, the manor passed to his cousin George Gregory and then in 1860 to a distant relative, John Sherwin-Gregory. Upon the death of Sherwin's wife in 1892, it passed to his godson Thomas Pearson-Gregory, who allowed it to fall into disrepair.

The manor passed through several sets of disparate hands in the twentieth century. Abandoned by 1935, it was purchased two years later by Violet Van der Elst, a businesswoman and inventor, who made her money from developing the first brushless shaving cream and made her name by campaigning against capital punishment. She restored the house and had it wired for electricity. During the Second World War it was requisitioned by the Royal Air Force as the officers' mess for RAF Harlaxton and later to house a company of the 1st Airborne Division. In 1948, Harlaxton was purchased by The Society of Jesus, who used it as a novitiate. They in turn sold the manor, while retaining rights to some of the lands, to Stanford University in 1965. The University of Evansville began using the property in 1971 as its British campus, but it was owned by William Ridgway, a trustee of the university, until 1986. Immediately after the purchase, the University of Evansville began renovating the entire facility.

Present day[edit]

Since 1984, Harlaxton Manor has also been the site of the annual Harlaxton Medieval Symposium, an interdisciplinary symposium on medieval art, literature, and architecture.[2] It also serves as a study abroad university for English majors from Eastern Illinois University and Western Kentucky University and honors program students from Hannibal-LaGrange University.[3]

The Gregory family[edit]

Harlaxton Manor during its construction 1843

Gregory Gregory (1786-1854) was born Gregory Williams and only adopted the surname Gregory when he inherited his uncle’s estates. His father was William Gregory Williams (1742-1814) who owned Rempstone Hall in Leicestershire. His mother was Olivia Preston (1758-1835). In 1822 Gregory inherited Harlaxton Manor and other property from his uncle George de Ligne Gregory (1740-1822).[4] At this stage Harlaxton Manor was an ancient building in need of repair so Gregory did not move to the house. Instead he lived at Hungerton Hall which is nearby. It seems that from this time he resolved to build a new manor at Harlaxton and to include within it many treasures which he intended to collect from all parts of the world. He was unmarried and remained a bachelor all his life so he was not impeded in this desire. In 1831 he commissioned Anthony Salvin, the famous architect to build his mansion and it took the next 20 years to complete.

In his diary of 1838 Hon. Charles Greville who visited the house while it was being built wrote.

"To-day we went to see the house Mr. Gregory is building, five miles from here. He is a gentleman who has a fancy to build a magnificent house in the Elizabethan style, and he is now in the middle of his work, all the shell being finished except one wing. Nothing can be more perfect than it is, both as to the architecture and the ornaments.
Many years ago, when he first conceived this design he began to amass money and lived for no other object. He travelled into all parts of Europe collecting objects of curiosity, useful or ornamental, for his projected palace, and he did not begin to build until he had accumulated money enough to complete his design. The grandeur of it is such, and such the tardiness of its progress, that it is about as much as he will do to live till its completion.
It is the means and not the end to which he looks for gratification. He says that it is his amusement, as hunting or shooting or feasting may be the objects of other people and as the pursuit leads him into all parts of the world, and to mix with every variety of nation and character, besides engendering tastes."[5]

In 1843 the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the partially completed house which is shown.[6] By 1851 Gregory had moved into the new Harlaxton Manor as the Census of this time shows that he is there as the sole resident with fourteen servants. There was a butler, a house keeper, three footmen, seven domestic maids and two grooms. In 1854 Gregory died and the house was inherited by his cousin George Gregory.

Advertisement for the opening of the house to visitors in 1856

George Gregory (1775-1860) was born in 1775 in London. His father was Daniel Gregory (1747-1819) who was a partner in the merchant firm Burton Forbes and Gregory. George did not follow his father’s occupation as a merchant instead he became the owner of an estate called Sprotlands in Willesborough. In 1825 at the age of 50 he married Elizabeth Price[7] who was twenty years his junior but the couple appear to have had no children. They moved to Harlaxton Manor after he received his inheritance as the 1855 Post Office Directory of Lincolnshire shows that he is in residence at that time.[8]

With other owners of large house in the area George decided to open the house to visitors. The advertisement for this is shown. The editor of the Grantham Journal attended one of these open days and described the house in detail in two articles.[9] This description gives a valuable insight into the inclusions of the house at this time. George died in 1860 at the Manor and a distant relative John Sherwin Gregory inherited the house.

John Sherwin Gregory circa 1830
Catherine Sherwin Gregory

John Sherwin Gregory (1803-1869) was born John Sherwin Longden. His father was John Longden and his mother was Charlotte Mettam. His father had inherited Bramcote Manor from his uncle who was from the Sherwin family.[10] He built a new house called Bramcote Hills House. When his father died in 1818 John inherited the Bramcote property and changed his surname to Sherwin thus becoming John Sherwin Sherwin. In 1829 he married Catherine Holden, daughter of Robert Holden[11] of Nuthall Temple which was a large house in Nottinghamshire. The couple lived at Bramcote Hills House[12] until John inherited Harlaxton Manor in 1860. The 1851 Census describes John as a “landed proprietor”. When he inherited the property he changed his surname to Gregory thus becoming John Sherwin Gregory. Portraits of John and Catherine by the famous painter Thomas Phillips are shown.[13]

Thomas Sherwin Pearson Gregory circa 1890
Thomas Sherwin Pearson Gregory circa 1920

John died in 1869 and Catherine continued to live at Harlaxton Manor until her death in 1892 at the age of 86. In her obituary it was stated that "to the parishioners of Harlaxton Mrs Sherwin-Gregory was a kind and considerate friend and amongst her tenants she was held in high esteem. The poor always found in her a generous benefactor the deceased lady evincing a special interest in any who were sick."[14]

When she died in 1892 Thomas Sherwin Pearson who was the second cousin and godson of John Sherwin Gregory inherited the Manor.[15] Thomas added Gregory to his surname and so became Thomas Sherwin Pearson Gregory (1851-1935).

Thomas was born in 1851 in Barwell Leicestershire. His father was General Thomas Hooke Pearson and his mother was Francis Elizabeth Ashby Mettam.[16] Thomas’s grandfather Rev George Metttam was the brother of John Sherwin Gregory’s mother Charlotte Mettam (see above) and therefore he was John’s second cousin.

Thomas was educated at Rugby and Oxford University and became a first grade cricketer.[17] In 1885 he married Mabel Laura Payne who was the daughter of Sir Salusbury Gillies Payne. Unfortunately she died in childbirth three years later in 1888. In 1892 Thomas inherited Harlaxton Manor and moved there with his son Philip. When Philip went to Eton he lived there with a large number of servants including a valet.[18] He became involved in local affairs and was Chairman of Grantham Rural District Council. His obituary said that "he was keenly interested in angling and shooting and in the latter was considered one of the best shots in England of his time."[19] A picture of him smoking a pipe with one of his shotguns is shown.

He died in 1935 and his son Philip John Sherwin Pearson-Gregory (1888-1955) inherited the Manor. Philip decided not to live in the house and sold it in 1937 to Violet Van der Elst.


  1. ^ Lincolnshire Archives Committee (24 March 1960 - 20 March 1961). Archivists' Report 12. 1 Pearson-Gregory
  2. ^ The Harlaxton Medieval Symposium
  3. ^ http://www.hlg.edu/academics/honors.php
  4. ^ Harlaxton Manor Archives “Gregory Gregory”. Online reference
  5. ^ Greville, Charles 1896 “The Greville memoirs : a journal of the reigns of King George IV, King William IV, and Queen Victoria”, p. 44. Online reference
  6. ^ Illustrated London News, 7 May 1843, p. 357. Online reference
  7. ^ Nicholl John 1866 “Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers”, p. 597. Online reference
  8. ^ POST OFFICE DIRECTORY OF LINCOLNSHIRE, 1855, p. 112. Online reference
  9. ^ Grantham Journal - Saturday 28 May 1859, p. 3 and Grantham Journal - Saturday 04 June 1859, p. 2.
  10. ^ Crisp Graham 2012 “Bramcote”p. 7. Online reference
  11. ^ Walford, Edward “The County Families of the United Kingdom” p. 431. Online reference
  12. ^ Bramcote History Group website. Online reference
  13. ^ Sothebys website. Online reference
  14. ^ Grantham Journal - Saturday 18 June 1892, p. 4.
  15. ^ The National Archives website. Online reference
  16. ^ Jackson, H. J. 1902 “Visitation of England and Wales”, p. 75. Online reference
  17. ^ Cricinfo website “Thomas Pearson”. Online reference
  18. ^ England Census of 1901.
  19. ^ Grantham Journal - Saturday 30 November 1935, p. 10.

External links[edit]