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History of the FitzHerbert Family & their Derbyshire Country Houses
By Michael Ford
and FitzHerbert Derbyshire Seats

Somersal Hall

Somersal Hall
(at Somersal Herbert in Derbyshire, east of Uttoxeter)

An outstanding Grade I listed Elizabethan Hall for sale

This is a very unusual property for Derbyshire in that large timber framed buildings are almost unheard of and thus are very rare. The only other one of note is Wakelyn Old Hall.

The house was built in 1564 for John Fitzherbert although it incorporates an older Great Hall from around the year 1500. Later additions were made in 1712 and 1850 but these have not detracted from its basic Elizabethan character. The entrance side has its original close narrow upright stud timbering with motif decoration and an extraordinary array of gables and overhangs. The other side was brick faced during the 1712 updating but what is behind is in the main original. The porch was added in 1899. There is still a priests’ hole in the house.

The entrance hall is rich with beams and panelling and most of the rooms in the house have beamed ceilings.

The Fitzherberts have been here since the 13th century or before, as it is known that the Fitzherberts of Norbury held the manor in 1206. They remained in residence until 1803 when the Somersal side of the family died out. It was bought by Lord Vernon who sold it back to the Fitzherberts in the form of William FitzHerbert a younger son of the Tissington line. Eventually Sir Henry Fitzherbert inherited both Somersal Hall and Tissington Hall and it was he who enlarged the former in 1850.

It was eventually sold out of the family to a Mr JV Green who carried out some restoration work.

This interesting and unique historic hall is now offered for sale through the agent FPD Savills from their Nottingham office. Offers are invited in the region of 1,000,000.

Tissington Hall
(at Tissington north of Ashbourne in Derbyshire)

A medium-sized Grade II* listed Manor House open to the public

The house was built in 1609 for Francis Fitzherbert possibly incorporating parts of an earlier hall. The property had become a seat of the Fitzherberts around 1465 when Nicholas the second son of John Fitzherbert of Somersal married the Tissington heiress.

During the Civil War Tissington was garrisoned by Colonel FitzHerbert in support of the King.

Improvements were made to the house by William FitzHerbert in 1670 and it was remodelled at the end of the 18th century. A major restoration took place in 1910 when the library wing was added.

The whole roof is hidden by a parapet and is topped by ornate chimneys. The FitzHerbert coat of arms is portrayed above the two-storey porch and the windows are mullioned and transomed. In front of the house is a low wall with a fine central gateway.

Inside, the large central entrance hall has its original panelling and neo-Gothic plasterwork and an elaborate fireplace from about 1750. The ornately carved staircase is also original. The drawing room is on the upper floor and has handsome panelling with fluted pilasters. The house contains some fine furniture and furnishings. The terraced gardens were laid out in 1913 and offer lovely views over the surrounding countryside.

It is interesting that the Tissington side of the Fitzherbert family use a capital ‘H’ in their name making it ‘FitzHerbert’.

The present owner Sir Richard FitzHerbert opened Tissington to the public for the first time in 1998 and it may be visited at various days during May to August.

Norbury Manor and Hall
(at Norbury south west of Ashbourne in Derbyshire)

A Medieval Grade I listed Manor House and Stuart period Hall

Norbury is an extremely interesting property in that the original medieval Manor House is a remarkable survival still attached to the later Hall. It was the senior seat of the Fitzherbert family from medieval times.

The Manor House was built of stone in the mid 13th century for William Fitzherbert and enlarged around 1300 by Sir Henry Fitzherbert. It still has many original features including the undercroft with the hall above on the upper floor, all still intact. There are also some Tudor additions.

Nicholas Fitzherbert acquired the freehold of the property in 1448 and the house was enlarged by his son Ralph, who built a Tudor Hall onto the Manor House and at right angles to it, at the end of the 15th century. This Hall was rebuilt in brick around 1680 retaining much of the Tudor panelling and stained glass.

Sir Thomas Fitzherbert married Anne Eyre, the heiress of Padley Manor, in the mid 16th century. They moved to Padley on her father’s death and Norbury fell into disuse. Sir John Fitzherbert supported the Royalist cause during the Civil War and was killed at Lichfield in 1649. His son William inherited Norbury in a ruinous state. Swynnerton Hall, in Staffordshire, also became his by marriage but had been badly damaged during the Civil War. With the choice of two possible homes he first decided to repair Norbury Hall. William’s son Basil Fitzherbert rebuilt Swynnerton and took up residence there and then continued the rebuild of Norbury as a lesser seat.

Today Norbury is owned by The National Trust. It is open to the public by written appointment only with the tenant Mr C Wright from April to September on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Padley Manor
(at Upper Padley north of Bakewell in Derbyshire)

Only a Grade I listed Medieval Roman Catholic Chapel remains

Padley Manor is thought to have been built originally in the 14th and 15th centuries and came to Sir Thomas Fitzherbert on his marriage to Anne Eyre in the mid 16th century. He may have rebuilt the house at that time before moving in. Both families were staunch Roman Catholics and it was because of this that Sir Thomas was arrested at Padley in 1588 by Lord Shrewsbury’s agent. Three priests were found in hiding in the house and were taken for trial. Having been found guilty they were hung, drawn and quartered on the 25th July of that year. They became known as the ‘Padley Martyrs’. Sir Thomas spent the rest of his life in the Tower of London and died there in 1591. Padley Manor was confiscated by the Crown.

What remains today is a Roman Catholic chapel converted from the original in 1933 to become the ‘Martyrs Chapel’. The chapel had been on the upper floor of this wing before conversion to encompass the whole of the remains. Two doorways are original as well as part of the hammerbeam roof with angel terminals.

Fitzherbert notability and nobility

Thomas Fitzherbert married Mary Weld (nee Smith) around 1770 and after his death she contracted a marriage, in 1785, to the Prince of Wales who later became King George IV. This marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert was declared invalid as it breached the Royal Marriage Act.

Basil Fitzherbert, a descendant of Thomas and Mary Fitzherbert, married Emily the daughter of Lord Stafford and their son succeeded to his grandfather’s title.

Fitzherbert monuments can be found in the church of St. Mary and St. Barlok at Norbury. The oldest one has the effigy of a Knight; Sir Henry Fitzherbert dated 1315. Two chest tombs, one to Nicholas Fitzherbert dated 1473 and the other to Sir Ralph Fitzherbert dated 1483, are superb examples of their time.

FitzHerbert monuments can be found in the church of St. Mary at Tissington.

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