Lathom And Knowsley


The first extract is from P. Draper "The House of Stanley" 1864 pp 100/101 dealing with the original Lathom House destroyed during the Civil War, then follows two extracts from

Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls : England and Wales vol. III North by John Timbs and Alexander Gunn F.Warne & Co. [nd but c.1890]

The coloured litho illustrations are from Historic Houses of Lancashire (?)


Artist's Impression of Lathom
Artist's Impression of Lathom - taken from Draper

Of the earlier mansion at Lathom, the seat of the Lathoms, which passed into the Stanley family by the marriage of Isabel de Lathom with Sir John Stanley, the ancestor of the Earls of Derby, we have no account. It is, however, certain that previously to 1496 one of those rude wooden mansions, common to that period, did exist, from whose portals many a noble train had passed for the tournament or the battle. In 1496 the ancient pile made way for a more celebrated successor, within which, in the words of the old poem, might be "lodged kyngys three." Whilst Thomas Lord Stanley, who became the first Earl of Derby, was absent assisting Henry VII., ballad lore tells us Lathom House was destroyed, and that, on his return, he rebuilt it :—

" When place, and weete, and ‘wisdom call’d
Home this Earle to rest,
He viewed his ancient seat, and saw
The ruins of his nest,
And pulled it down, and from the ground
New builded Lathom Hall,
So spacious that it can receive
Two kings, their trains and all."

This was the later mansion, the fortress then existing and being garrisoned by James, the seventh Earl of Derby, and was the same which is said to have furnished Henry VII., who visited his father-in-law, Earl Thomas, shortly after its erection, with the first ideas of his new palace at Richmond ; and it is generally supposed that its principal gateway is represented in Carvings attached to the stall of James Stanley, Bishop of Ely, in the Collegiate Church of Manchester, of which he was warden ; and there can be little doubt as to the carving referring to Lathom House (and most probably to the Hall now alluded to) from the circumstance of the Stanley legend being represented in a tree, and a rebus of masons or stone-cuttters (termed Lathomi and Latomi, in mediæval Latin) approaching the gateway below, which has two towers and machicolated battlements. The form of Lathom House, previously to the siege, is, however, thus described :—"In the centre was a lofty tower, called the Eagles ; it had two courts, for mention is made of a strong and high gateway before the first. The whole was surrounded with a wall two yards thick, flanked by nine towers, and this again guarded a moat eight yards wide and two deep." Weber, in his ballad of Flowden Field, represents the "bright bower of Lathom " as having "nine towers on high," and " nine in the utter walls," which representation gives the idea of a moated outer court, with a turreted gateway, and other towers in the walled circuit, and, within this enclosure, an embattled mansion, also crowned with turrets, with the Eagle Tower rising majestically above all the rest, forming an inner court.

We may presume that the account of the situation and description given of Lathom House by Bishop Rutter, who was resident at Lathom during both sieges, and was the Earl of Derby’s chaplain, will be a faithful picture of the mansion. The bishop says :—" Lathom House stands upon a flat, upon a moorish, springy, and spumous ground, and was encompassed with a strong wall of two yards thick ; upon the walls were nine towers, flanking each other, and in every tower were six pieces of ordnance, that played three one way, and three the other. Without the wall was a moat eight yards wide, and two yards deep ; upon the back of the moat, between the wall and the graff, was a strong row of palisadoes around: beside all these there was a high strong tower, called the Eagle Tower, in the midst of the house surrounding all the rest ; and the gateway was also two high and strong buildings, with a strong tower on each side of it ; and in the entrance to the first court, upon the tops of these towers, were placed the best and choicest marksmen, who usually attended the Earle in his sports, as huntsmen, keepers, fowlers, and the like, who continually kept watch with screwed guns and long fowling-pieces upon those towers to the great annoyance and loss of the enemy, especially of their commanders, who were frequently killed in their trenches, or as they came or went to and from them.* Besides all that is said hitherto of the walls, towers, and moat, there is something so particular and romantic in the general situation of this house, as if Nature herself had formed it for a stronghold or place of security; for before the house, to the south and south-west is a rising ground so near as to overlook the top of it, from which it falls so quick that nothing planted against it on those sides can touch it further than the front wall ; and on the north and east sides there is another rising ground, even to the edge of the moat, and then falls away so quick that you can scarce, at the distance of a carbine shot, see the house over that height, so that all batteries placed there are so far below it as to be of little service against it (of which more hereafter;) only let us observe, by the way, that the uncommon situation of it may be compared to the palm of a man’s hand. flat in the middle, and covered with a rising ground about it." The names of seven of the towers, as given by Seacombe, are, the Eagle Tower, the Tower of Madness, the Tower at the Kitchen Bridge, the little Tower next it, the next Tower to that in the corner, the Chapel Tower, and the Private Tower. The situation of the mansion is supposed to have been between the north-east offices of the present house and the kitchen-garden.

A residence of considerable dimensions at this time stood in. the New. Park, about half a mile from Lathom House, which was pulled down in the early part of the last century [1700s]. This building also appears to have been a castellated mansion, surrounded. by a moat which now remains, by the side of which lies a long piece of stone, said to be about three hundred years old, as shewn by some marks curiously inscribed upon it ; and, near this moat, old people tell us, once stood a dove-house, about five yards square, in which probably birds were reared when falconry was in vogue. Part of the brick wall of a garden, the walks of which appear to have been tastefully laid out, still remains ; and here also may be found the garden columbine growing wild, which indicates former cultivation. This house is supposed to have been the residence of the steward, as noticed in Halsall’s diary, and was called " Horton," " Alton," or " Halton Castle." from this mansion, no doubt, the Halton Castle public-house, in the adjacent hamlet of Westhead, takes its name ; and it is much to be regretted that the artist who executed the present sign did not avail himself of the copy of its predecessor, which has been so thoughtlessly rendered doubly invisible by dust and neglect, and the usurpation of the present " ideal castle," by which it is also hid from view.

The Golforden, a running brook or stream, mentioned by Leland as being near Lathom House, though not now generally known, and by some confounded with the Spa and the Tawd, still has an existence ; but the water which formerly took its course down the Golforden having been turned in various directions, very little can be seen of this ancient brook outside Lathom Park until the various water-courses join at the Park-wall. The Golforden may now be traced from the Firs for about three-quarters of a mile towards the south front of the present Lathom House. At times, even to the recollection of old people now living, when at its full height, in crossing the lane, now running between the Firs and the Park, generally known as the Plough Lane, about a quarter of a mile west of the Spa-brook Bridge, it flowed or washed down to the Sea, that portion of the lane being called, even to the present day, "The Wash-way ;" and a small stone farmhouse, on the south side of the road, " Wash-way House." The Golforden, along whose banks knights and ladies have a thousand times made resort, hearkening to stories as romantic and varied as those of Boccaccio, runs from the Firs,* on Lathom Moss, and through land, belonging to the Stand Farm, up to Lathom Park-wall, through which it runs into the Park, and then, taking an easterly direction, coalesces with the Spa and flows into the Tawd, which, in its turn, runs into the Douglas.

In 1670, Dr. Borlase published a book, dedicated to Charles, Earl of Derby, in which are set forth the virtues of the "Lathom Spa," where formerly " the pilgrim and the lazar devoutly cooled their parched lips," which he describes as a medicinal well, commonly called " Maudlen Well," a spring in one corner of the kitchen garden of the " Spa Farm," which, a few years back, was covered over, and a drain laid from it. The doctor opined that time, the mother of experience, would have recommended the medicinal properties of this well to posterity, but time seems to have entirely disappointed the doctor’s anticipations.

Lathom House had long enjoyed a high reputation for magnificence and hospitality, assuming these respects, up to the time of the breaking out of the Civil War, the attitude of a royal court in the northern part of the kingdom ; and the family were regarded with such veneration and esteem, that the following harmless inversion was as familiar "household words :"—" God save the Earl of Derby and the King ;" the general feeling and opinion being, "love to their lord, and loyalty to their prince."


Lathom and the Stanleys. - Siege of Lathom House.

 Lathom House (rebuilt 1720)


Lathom Manor, for many centuries famous as the seat of the renowned family of the Stanleys, was transferred by marriage, in 1714, to Lord Ashburnham, and by him sold to Mr. Henry Furness, who, in turn, disposed of it, in 1724, to Sir Thomas Bootle, Knight, of Milling in this county. In 1755 Mary, niece and heiress of this Sir Thomas Bootle, married Richard Wilbraham, Esq., of Rode Hall, in Cheshire, who received the estate of Lathom as dowry with his wife, and assumed in consequence the name of Bootle, and died in 1796. Lathom descended to the eldest son by this marriage, Edward Bootle-Wilbraham, created Lord Skelmersdale in 1828, and Earl of Lathom in 1880.

The manor is now the possession and the present Lathom House is the seat of Lord Lathom.

Of the famous old Lathom House, so heroically defended by the celebrated Countess of Derby, Charlotte de la Tremouille, no traces remain. The modern mansion is a magnificent edifice, occupies a somewhat elevated plain inclining towards the north, and commands extensive prospects. Its oldest portion, the south front, was commenced by William, ninth Earl of Derby, and was completed, between 1724 and 1734, by Sir Thomas Bootle already named. Of the north front, which extends 156 feet, there are nine windows on each floor. The offices are joined to the central block by colonnades supported by Ionic pillars. The park is between three and four miles in circumference.

The family of Stanley, a branch of the ancient Barons of Audeley or Aldelegh, in Staffordshire, derives from William, nephew of Lydulph, son of Adam, one of the Staffordshire Barons of Audeley. This William on receiving from his uncle Lydulph the estate of Stanleigh or Stoneleigh in Staffordshire, assumed the surname of Stanley. But the first of the local family was Robert, Lord of Lathom, who founded the priory of Burscough and who held Purbold, a member of the barony of Manchester in the time of Richard 1. and King John, 1189 and 1216. His grandson, Sir Robert Lathom, by his son Richard, married Amicia, daughter and co-heir of Robert, Lord and Baron of Alfreton, Normanton, and Farnham in the reign of Edward I. and prior to the year 1252. Sir Robert, their son, married Katherine, daughter and heiress of Sir Robert de Knowsley, by whom the estate of Knowsley was brought into the Lathom family. From Sir Thomas, the eldest son by this marriage, sprang Sir Thomas de Lathom the younger, who, either by his first or second wife, had a daughter, Isabella, and she, becoming heiress and marrying Sir John Stanley, brought Lathom, Knowsley, and other large estates-the ancient possessions of Orin, the supposed ancestor of her race-into the family of Stanley. This marriage with the heiress of Lathom laid the foundation of the princely inheritance of the house of Stanley. The lucky Sir John, who thus acquired immense wealth, was descended from that William mentioned above who was the first to assume the family name. William Stanley, grandson of the first of that name, married Alice Massey, daughter of Sir Hamo Massey of Timperley. Their eldest son, William, married Margery, daughter and sole heiress of Sir William de Hooton, and became in right of his wife Lord of Hooton. From this knight is descended the elder branch of the Stanleys-the Stanleys of Hooton. His younger brother, Sir John Stanley, the fortunate gentleman who won the affection of the heiress of Lathom, as already narrated, founded that branch of the family from which the present Earls of Derby are descended.

The extraordinary story of The Eagle and Child, the crest of the Stanleys, is associated with the house of Lathom. Its outline is as follows :-Sir Thomas Lathom, the father of Isabel, afterwards the wife of Sir John Stanley, having this only child, and cherishing an ardent desire for a son to inherit his name and fortune, had an intrigue with a young gentlewoman, the fruit of which connexion was a son. The lord of Lathom contrived to have the infant conveyed by a confidential servant to the foot of a tree in his park frequented by an eagle, and he and his lady, taking their usual walk, found the infant as if by accident. The old lady, considering it a gift from heaven brought hither by the bird of prey and miraculously preserved, consented to adopt the boy as their heir.

"Their content was such, to see the hap,
That the ancient lady hugs yt in her lap
Smoths it with kisses, bathes yt in her tears,
And unto Lathom House the babe she bears."

The name of Oskatel was given to the little foundling, Mary Oskatel being the name of his mother. From this time the crest of the Eagle and Child was assumed; but, as the old knight approached the grave, his conscience smote him, and on his death. bed he bequeathed the principal part of his fortune to Isabel, his daughter, now become the lady of Sir John Stanley, leaving poor Oskatel, on whom the King had conferred the honour of knighthood, only the manors of Irlam and Urmston, near Manchester, and some possessions in the county of Chester in which county he settled and became the founder of the family of Lathom of Astbury.

The story must be regarded, however, as merely legendary. In the Harleian collection of manuscripts is an account of some painted windows in Astbury Church, near Congleton, representing a knightly figure with a shield placed anglewise under a helmet and mantle, and for crest an eagle standing on an empty cradle, with wings displayed regardant or, with an inscription-" Pray for the soul of Philip, son of Sir Robert Lathom, Knight." This Philip Lathom of Astbury was uncle of Sir Thomas, alias Oskatel, the father of Isabella ; and it would have been a strange circumstance if an uncle should have assumed a crest bearing allusion to the adoption of an illegitimate child. That there was an Oskel or Oskatel Lathom, who bore as his crest an eagle standing on a child, is proved by the painting formerly in the windows of Northenden Church (1580) ; but this may have been because it was the old Lathom crest. Certainly the eagle seems to have been from a remote period a favourite cognizance of the family. Again, the legend of the eagle and child is proved to be as old as the time of King Alfred.

From the marriage of Isabella with Sir John Stanley the destinies 3f the Lathoms became blended with those of the latter family, and the subsequent fortunes of the race thus formed, with the history of its most memorable members, is to be found traced in our sketch of " Knowsley and the Earls of Derby." Our immediate concern at present is with the former mansion of Lathom House, the principal incidents connected with its earlier history, the sieges to which it was subjected during the Civil War, and its final capture and demolition.

This ancient and redoubtable stronghold was probably built by Robert de Lathom-grandson of the original Robert Fitz Henry who, in the thirty-second year of Edward I. (1304), had a charter of free warren and a market and fair at each of his manors of Lathom and Robye. This is the Lathom House spoken of by Camden, and named by him the chief seat of the Stanleys.

Sir Thomas, second Lord Stanley, married the mother of Henry, £f;.il of Richmond (afterwards Henry VII.), and thus became step father to the prince whom the Lancastrian victory of Bosworth Field was to place upon the throne of England. But this Lord Stanley, and his younger brother, Sir William Stanley, of Holt Castle, in Denbighshire, materially contributed to the happy result of Bosworth, The former had borne the mace at the coronation of Richard III., and had by that monarch been constituted Steward of the Household and Constable of England for life, besides being installed Knight of the Garter. But, heedless of the honours their family had received at the hands of the House of York, both Sir Thomas and Sir William Stanley deserted Richard on his last battlefield and went over to Henry's side. No sooner had Henry reached the throne than he rewarded the support he received on this critical occasion by creating Sir Thomas first Earl Derby. How the King rewarded the younger brother, Sir William, at this time does not appear, but it is certain that ten years later, February, 1494-5, Henry caused him to be beheaded on a charge of high treason, on pretence of his being engaged in the Perkin Warbeck conspiracy. A few months afterwards, in June of the same year, King Henry repaired to Lathom to visit his mother, whom, as has been mentioned, Sir Thomas Stanley, first Earl Derby, had married; or, as Hollinshed puts it, " King Henrie did take his progresse into Lancashire the 25th daie of June, there to make merie with his moother the Countesse of Derbie, which then lay at Lathome in the countrie." The former mansion of Lathom House was at this time standing in all its ancient splendour; but the King devoted but little time to the examination of the magnificence of the stronghold or the beauties of its scenery. Indeed, his retreat from the seat of the Stanleys and from the company of his " moother" was somewhat precipitate and undignified. According to Kennet, " A notable tradition, yet remaining in the noble family of Stanley, is, that when King Henry VII,, after the execution of Sir William Stanley, brother to Thomas, Earl of Derby, came a progress into these parts, he was entertained by the Earl at his house at Lathom, and, after a view of the whole house, he was conducted by his lordship to the top of the leads for a prospect of the country. The Earl's fool was in company, who, observing the King draw near to the edge of the leads, not guarded with bannisters, he stepped up to the Earl and, pointing down the precipice, said, ' Tom, remember Will!' The King understood the meaning and made all haste downstairs and out of the house, and the fool long after seemed mightily concerned that his lord had not courage to take that opportunity of revenging himself for the death of his brother."

At Lathom House King James I. stopped on the 18th and 19th August, 1617, on his progress from Edinburgh to London, and previous to his departure he here conferred the honour of knighthood on several gentlemen of this county.

But the chief historical association connected with Lathom House is its gallant defence by the Countess of Derby against the besieging forces of the Parliament in 1644. James, seventh Earl of Derby (see " Knowsley and the Earls of Derby"), an ardent royalist, had taken the field against the Republican forces, leaving his Countess, Charlotte, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of Claude de la Tremouille, with his children, almost defenceless, in his residence of Lathom House. This mansion, being justly considered by the Parliamentary leaders the key to its district in Lancashire, was promptly laid siege to by a force so numerous, compared with the handful who formed the Countess's garrison, as, at first sight, to make all attempts at resistance seem mere foolhardiness and criminal exposure of human life. But such was not precisely the condition of the case. Lathom House was not wholly defenceless. "It stood," says Seacome, the author of the " History of the House of Stanley," " upon a flat, upon a moorish, springy, and spumous ground ; was at the time of the siege encompassed by a strong wall of two yards thick. Upon the wall were nine towers flanking each other, and in every tower were six pieces of ordnance, that played three the one way and three the other. Within the wall was a moat, eight yards wide and two yards deep; upon the brink of the moat, between the wall and the graff, was a strong row of palisadoes surrounding the whole, and, to add to these securities, there was a high tower, called the Eagle Tower, in the midst of the house, sur rounding (surmounting?) all the rest ; and the gatehouse was also a strong and high building, with a strong. tower on each side of it; and in the entrance to the first court, upon the top of these towers, were placed the best and choicest marksmen, who had been accustomed to attend the Earl in his field sports, with their fowling-pieces, which they levelled at the enemy, marking particularly the officers wherever they appeared in their trenches. Nature seemed to have formed the house for a stronghold. The situation of the house might be compared to the palm of a man's hand-flat in the middle and covered with rising ground around it, so that during the siege the enemy was never able to raise a battery against it, or to make a single practicable breach in the wall. The works of the besiegers formed a line of circumvallation drawn round about the house at the distance of 60 or 100 or 200 yards from the wall, as best suited the ground, consisting of an open trench, a yard of ditch, and a yard of turf, with eight sconces raised in such places as might annoy the besieged in the sally, directis lateribus, and in some places staked and palisadoed."

The following stirring account of the siege of the house, accompanied by a few characteristic traits of the heroism displayed by its intrepid defender, the Lady of Lathom, has been abridged from "A Briefe Journall of the Siege against Lathom," which is written with considerable spirit.

In compliance with a resolution taken in the Parliamentary Council at Manchester on Saturday, the 24th of February, 1644, the force under General Sir Thomas Fairfax marched from that place and took up their quarters in front of Lathom House on Tuesday, the 27th of the same month. On the following day Captain I\Iarsland brought a letter from Sir Thomas, with an ordinance from Parliament, the letter requiring the Countess of Derby to yield up Lathom House upon such honourable conditions as Sir Thomas might propose, and the ordinance declaring the mercy of Parliament to the Earl of Derby, if he would submit himself to their authority. To these overtures her ladyship answered " that she much wondered that Sir Thomas Fairfax should require her to give up her lord's house, without any offence on her part done to the Parliament ; desiring in a business of such weight, that struck both at her religion and life, that so nearly concerned her sovereign, her lord, and her whole posterity, she might have a weeks consideration, both to resolve the doubts of conscience and to advise in matters of law and honour ... . . . . . not that her ladyship was unfixed in her thoughts, but anxious to gain time by demur and protractions of the business ; which, haply, the good knight suspecting, denied her the time desired, moving her ladyship to come to New Park, a house of her lords, and to come thither in his coach, when himself and his colonels would meet her for a full discourse and transaction of the business. Her ladyship refused this invitation, replying " that, notwithstanding her present condition, she remembered her lord's honour and her own birth, and conceived it more likely that Sir Thomas Fairfax should wait upon her than she upon him." Other conditions were afterwards proposed, but she rejected them all as dishonourable or uncertain. The Countess, in her turn, proposed conditions, to the effect that she should continue for a month in Lathom House, and she should then, with her children, her friends, her soldiers, and her servants, depart and have free transport to the Isle of Man (then held in defence by her husband), and that after her departure no soldier should be quartered in the lordship of Lathom, nor any garrison put into Lathom or Knowsley House, and that none of her tenants, neighbours, or friends then in the, house with her should for assisting her suffer in their persons or estates. Sir Thomas Fairfax refused to grant the time required, and insisted that Lathom House should be evacuated at ten o'clock of the following morning. The messenger by whom these terms were communicated conveyed back from her ladyship the following answer: "That she refused this offer, and was truly happy that hers had been refused, protesting that she would rather hazard her life than offer the like again ; and that, though a woman and a stranger, divorced from her friends and robbed of her estate ' she was ready to receive their utmost violence, trusting in God both for protection and deliverance." After some further unsuccessful negotiation the siege commenced.

On Tuesday, March 10th, a sally was made by the garrison upon the works which had been thrown up by the besiegers. This attack was conducted by Captain Farmer, aided by Lieutenant Bretargh, who slew about thirty men and took forty arms, one drum, and six prisoners. From the 10th to the 19th several operations of minor importance took place; and on the 20th the enemy brought one of their cannon to play upon the walls and to beat down the pinnacles ~ nd turrets of the house. The same day Sir Thomas Fairfax sent a letter which he had received from the Earl of Derby, who was then at Chester. wherein his lordship desired an honourable and free passage for his wife and children, if she so pleased, being loth to expose them to the uncertain hazards of a long siege ; but her ladyship's noble thoughts still kindled and increased at the approaching danger, and she replied " that she would willingly submit herself to her lord's commands ; but till she was assured it was his pleasure by correspondence she would neither yield the house nor desert it, but wait for the event, according- to the will of God." Having returned this intrepid reply, she despatched a messenger to his lordship at Chester, and in the meantime the siege proceeded. On Monday, April 1st, six cannon, loaded with chain-shot and bars of iron, were brought to play upon the fortress, and the next day the enemy played their mortar-piece three times, loaded with stones thirteen inches in diameter and eighty pounds in weight. Colonels Aston and Moore, still finding their artillery unavailing, besought the ministers of religion and all persons in Lancashire well-wishers to their righteous cause to offer up their prayers for the fall of Lathom House. On the Wednesday following Captain Farmer, Captain Molyneux Radcliffe, Lieutenant Penketh, Lieutenant Worrell, and Lieutenant Walthew, with 140 soldiers, issued out from a postern-gate, beat the enemy back from all their works which they had cast up round about the house, nailed all their cannon, killed about fifty men, took sixty arms and one colour, with three drums; while Captain Fox, by colours from the Eagle Tower, gave signal when to march and to retreat, according to the motions of the enemy, which he observed at a distance. From the 4th to the 24th of April the siege continued, and the cannon played with considerable force upon the walls and the Eagle Tower, but without producing any material effect. On the 25th Colonel Rigby, who had been left in command, sent what he called his last message to her ladyship, requiring her to yield up Lathom House, with all persons, goods. and arms within it into his hands, and to receive the mercy of Parliament. Having read the summons, the Countess called for the messenger by whom it was brought, and told him "that a due reward for his pains would be to be hanged up at the gates; but, says she, 'Thou art but a foolish instrument of a traitor's pride : carry this answer back to Rigby' (with a noble scorn tearing the paper in his sight). ' Tell that insolent rebel he shall neither have persons, goods, nor house. When our strength and provisions are spent we shall find a fire more merciful than Rigby ; and then, if the providence of God prevent it not, my goods and house shall burn in his sight; and myself, children, and soldiers, rather than fall into his hands, will seal our religion and loyalty in the same flame!' Which having spoken aloud in her soldiers' hearing, they broke out into acclamations of joy, with this general voice, ' We will die for his Majesty and your honour! God save the King!"'

On the 26th, all things being prepared, about four o'clock next morning Captain Chisenhall and Captain Fox, Lieutenants Bretargh, Penketh, Walthew, and Worrall issued forth at the eastern gate, and, being assisted by Captain Ogle and Captain Rawstome, took possession of the enemy's trench and scaled the ramparts with considerable slaughter. The main works being obtained, the two captains lifted up the mortar-piece to a low drag, and by strength of men drew it into the house. The same attempt was made against the enemy's great guns, but, lying beyond the ditch and being of such bulk and weight, all the strength brought to the service could not bring them off before the whole of the enemy's army came upon them. This action continued an hour, with the loss of two men on the part of the besieged. " From this time to the 25th May," says Captain Halsall, " we had a continual calm, so that we were scarcely sensible of a siege, but only by the restraint upon our liberty." On Thursday, May 23rd, Captain Edward Moseley brought another summons to her ladyship from his colonel, fuller than the former, in which an offer of mercy was made to the garrison; to which her ladyship replied, " The mercies of the wicked are cruel," and said that, " unless they treated with her lord, they should never take her or any of her friends alive." The same night one of the spies brought the intelligence that his Royal Highness Prince Rupert was in Cheshire, and on his march to the relief of Lathom House. This information having reached Colonel Rigby, he drew off his forces on the 27th to Eccleston Common and raised the siege of Lathom House, marching off the soldiers under his command to Bolton. The siege and capture of that town, which followed so soon after, under the combined operations of Prince Rupert and the Earl of Derby, yielded numerous trophies to the victorious army, and all these were presented to the heroic defender of Lathom House by her noble relative, in testimony of the memorable triumph achieved under her command by a gallant band of three hundred soldiers, assailed as they had been by ten times their own number.

During the siege of Lathom the enemy, says Seacome, shot at the house 109 cannon, 32 stones, and four grenadoes, at a cost of a hundred barrels of gunpowder. According to the account quoted their loss amounted to 500 killed and 140 wounded ; while on the same authority it is stated that the besieged lost only five or six men in all

After the raising of the siege, owing to the relief afforded by Prince Rupert, the Countess of Derby retired with her children, under the protection of her husband, to the Isle of Man, leaving the care of Lathom House to Colonel Rawstome. The stronghold was again invested in the following year by the Parliamentary troops, amounting to four thousand men, under Colonel Egerton, who took up his headquarters at Ormskirk. The garrison made a gallant and successful stand for some time, but the ancient spirit no longer animated the defenders. The wild enthusiasm of last year, which made the Countess's men regard death to them the only alternative with victory with a gay welcome, and the quick ingenuity of the lady leader providing for every possible contingency, planning the most daring sallies to be carried out, with deadly and dispiriting effect upon the besiegers and at the smallest possible expense of life to the besieged-these, as well as the primal "motive and the cue for action," the circumstance that their commander was a lovely woman who sought their protection, while at the same time she guided their efforts, were all now wanting to the defenders of Lathom House ; and at last, reduced to extremities for want of the munitions of war and disappointed in the expectation of a reinforcement from the King, who was in September of that year in Chester, the commander was compelled to surrender the fine old house upon bare terms of mercy on the 2nd of December. The besiegers soon converted the most valuable effects of the house into booty, the towers,* from which so many fatal shots had been fired, were thrown down, the military works destroyed, and the sun of Lathom practically set for ever. After the Restoration the manor returned into the possession of the Derby family, and in the early part of the last century it was occasionally inhabited by them. From 1714, when the property was transferred to Lord Ashburnham, its history has already been traced.

The fall of Lathom House was regarded as an event of the first importance by the Parliamentary party. Besides the material gain of twelve pieces of cannon and a large store of arms and ammunition, the Republicans had achieved a great moral triumph in the fall of the famous royalist house, and an order was issued by the House of Commons " for the ministers about London to give public thanks to God, on the next Lord's Day, for its surrender."

James, seventh Earl of Derby, was taken after the rout of Worcester, tried, and beheaded 15th October, 1651. His lady survived him till 1663, when she was buried at Ormskirk. As the fate of the principal members of the House of Derby is sketched elsewhere (see " Knowsley "), the subject cannot be followed out further here.

* According to a poem written in the reign of Henry VIII., Thomas, the second Earl of Derby, represents Lathom House as having eighteen towers; for in quitting that place in 1518 he says :-

Farewell, Lathom ! that bright bower,
Nine towers thou bearest on high,
And other nine thou bearest in the outer walls
Within thee may be lodged kings three."


Knowsley Hall.

Knowsley Hall

Knowsley Hall, the principal seat of the family of Derby, a magnificent structure, evincing in its princely proportions, in the, luxuriance of its furniture, fittings, and decorations, as well as in its pictures, its statuary, and its relics and examples of artistic workmanship, contributed by every country and by every age, is situated in the parish of Huyton, Lancashire, seven miles from Liverpool and two miles from Prescot. The park is remarkable for its size -it is about ten miles in circumference-and for its beautiful scenery ; there being in this enclosure probably a greater number of individual and separate scenes, or, to use a painters phrase, " bits," conspicuous for sylvan beauty than in any other park in the kingdom. The magnificence of the mansion itself is more that of ample dimensions than of architectural style ; but certain portions of it are finer in conception and design than others. The portion prepared for the reception of Henry VII., and for the sojourn of the Prince Regent in later times, was rebuilt in stone in 1820, and is specially imposing from its battlements, turrets, and crenellated parapets. Over the south or front entrance, beneath the family arms, is this inscription : "James, Earl of Derby, Lord of Man and the Isles, grandson of James, Earl of Derby, and of Charlotte, daughter of Claude, Duke de la Tremouille, whose husband, James, was beheaded at Bolton 15th October, 1652, for strenuously adhering to Charles II., who refused a bill passed unanimously by both Houses of Parliament for restoring to the family the estates lost by his loyalty to him. 1732."

This fine estate became the property of the Lathom family by the marriage of Sir Robert de Lathom with Catherine, daughter and heiress of Thomas de Knowsley, and passed into the family of Stanley in like manner by the marriage of Isabella, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Lathom, grandson of Sir Robert, with Sir John Stanley.

Among the art-treasures of Knowsley are a number of splendid pictures. Among these is to be specially noted, " Belshazzar's Feast" by Rembrandt "Seneca in the Bath," by Rubens ; and the sea-pieces by Vanderveldt and De Long. The fine collection contains excellent specimens of Teniers, Salvator Rosa, Correagio, Vandyke, Claud Lorraine, and other masters. There are also many valuable family portraits by eminent artists of different periods. One of the most interesting among the portraits is that of Thomas, the first Earl of Derby.

The history of the original branches of this renowned family the Lathoms and the Stanleys has already been traced under the notice of Lathom House and the famous defence of that stronghold by the Countess of Derby, Charlotte de la Tremouille, against the vastly outnumbering troops of the Parliamentary force. In the sketch alluded to the chief incidents in the history of the Earls of Derby, down to the magnanimous representative, the husband of the heroic defender of Lathom House-James, the seventh earl, who suffered for the King at Bolton in 1651-2, have been noted. It remains to notice under " Knowsley Hall" the chief features of the lives of the great earls, from James, the seventh of the line, to the present representative of the family.

Charles, eighth Earl of Derby, assumed his position as the chief representative of the family on the execution his father, the seventh earl. With him the traditions and the political character of this illustrious race were carried down with characteristic consistency .Providence had cast his lot in more peaceful times than it had been his father's fate to see; but he had worn a sword for the King nevertheless, and he was present with his father at the great muster of Royalists on Preston Moor, June 20, 1642. In August, 1659, he appeared at the head of several Lancashire gentlemen in support of the unsuccessful rising of Sir George Booth in Cheshire, but was taken prisoner and attainted by Parliament. An act was passed, however, at the Restoration (in 1665), entitled " An Act for the restoring of Sir Charles Stanley in blood," by which this nobleman regained his honours and titles. He was also, soon afterwards, appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire. In 1650 he married Dorothea Helena, daughter of John Kirkhoven, Baron of Rupa, in Holland. He died in 1672.

He was succeeded by his son, William Richard George, as ninth earl. Though this Derby refused to mingle in Politics, and preferred to lead the life of a country gentleman, he held appointments of considerable importance at different periods of his life. He was successively Lord-Lieutenant of his county and of Lancashire and Cheshire combined. He married Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Thomas, Earl of Ossory, and sister of James, Duke of Ormond; but died without male issue and was succeeded by his brother, James, tenth Earl of Derby, a man of military tastes, who had seen service under William of Orange in Flanders. To the spirit and gallantry of a soldier he added the refinement and discrimination of a man of careful culture; he was a liberal patron of the fine arts, and he rebuilt Knowsley Hall. At his death without issue male in 1735-6, the male descendants of the main line of the Earls of Derby became extinct.

Sir Edward Stanley of Bickerstaffe, descended from Sir John Stanley of Crosshall, brother of Thomas, second Earl of Derby, succeeded as the eleventh earl. He was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire in 1741. His son James, Lord Stanley, married the daughter of Thomas Smith, Esq., of Weald Hall, Essex, and was the father of Edward Smith Stanley, who succeeded as twelfth earl.

This Edward, a memorable member of the Derby family, was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of his county in 1776, and held that office for fifty-eight years. In him the hereditary tastes of the Derbys seems to have undergone some modification. He did not take any very prominent part in political life, but made himself famous as a patron of the " turf" He founded the " Derby" race in 1780, and was fond of the " sport" of cock-fighting, which was then prevalent among country gentlemen. But in the gratification of his tastes, such as they were, he always acted with fairness, and he was widely known as an honourable and generous man. His first wife was Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of James, Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, by whom he had Edward, Lord Stanley, afterward thirteenth earl, and two daughters. But his first wife having died in 1797, the Earl contracted an alliance which drew upon him the attention of the whole country. He led to the altar Miss Elizabeth Farren, a fascinating actress, and at that time perhaps the chief attraction of Drury Lane. That the proudest earl in England, the representative of the illustrious Stanleys, the companions and the peers of kings, should mate with one occupying such a very different position in life occasioned no little surprise. But the Earl was not a man to be influenced by the class of considerations that affect ordinary minds. He could afford to act independently of the conventionalities that restricted smaller men, and the result proved the wisdom and the judiciousness of his choice. Miss Farren belonged to a family historical for histrionic talent, and she had the usual advantage of having had ancestors of note; she herself was a woman of education and high culture. In all the relations of life she showed herself a perfect gentlewoman; and when she assumed the position of Countess of Derby, she seemed to accept a condition of things which in her case was only natural and appropriate. The remarkable elevation in her social rank was one of the probable contingencies of her career an incident which she regarded with complacency and accepted without elation.

Edward Stanley, the thirteenth earl, succeeded on the death of his father in 1834. He rendered himself noteworthy for the interest he took in natural history, and his collection of books and of mammals at Knowsley had a reputation throughout Europe. He was the founder of a very extensive museum, which he bequeathed to the town of Liverpool, and which now forms an attraction of the Free Library of that town. He died in 1851, and was succeeded by his son,

Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, the fourteenth earl, who, though not the first of his race who has evinced high literary, tastes has probably won more distinction as a statesman and a author than any of his predecessors. His political career has been conspicuous from the commencement-his life was in the eye of the public. He was born in 1799, and was for some years representative in Parliament for the northern division of Lancashire. During a part of the Goderich Administration he was Under Secretary for the Colonies ; he was Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1830 to 3833 ; Secretary of State for the Colonies at different periods and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1852 and 1853. He was elected Lord Rector of Glasgow University in 1834. His elevation to the peerage took place in the same year. He succeeded to the government in 1852, as Premier and First Lord of the Treasury for a short time, and he again came into power in 1866, but again resigned it in 1868. His eloquence and efficiency as a speaker, and debater have seldom been surpassed. His speeches were remarkable for a certain vehemence and brilliant dash that bore down all but the very stubbornest opposition. For this quality of fiery impetuosity in attack and in retort he was named by Lord Lytton "the Rupert of Debate." He. died in 1869, and was succeeded by his son,

Edward Henry Stanley, the fifteenth and present Earl of Derby. He was born at Knowsley Park in 1826, graduated (first-class in classics) at Cambridge in 1848, and entered Parliament for Lynn Regis in the same year. He was Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in 1852 ; Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1858 ; Secretary of State for India, 1858-9 ; and in 1866 he became Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, retaining that office till the resignation of the Conservative party in 1868, and again in 1874 and 1878

The principal members of the Stanley family have now been noticed, in the present sketch and in that of " Lathom House ;" but in an ancient stock so widely connected there were many notable men who bore the name and who rendered themselves conspicuous. Of these James Stanley, son of the first earl, was a man of military instincts and of a free and liberal nature. He was destined for the Church, and, though not specially suited to the sacred profession, he was an efficient member of it. He was elected Bishop of Ely. On the eve of the " Battle of Flodden," when the whole of Lancashire was astir with the summons to rise for the defence of the country, the Earl of Surrey sent his message, among others, to the Bishop of Ely. The Bishop was not slack in answering the call. He mustered his large contingent, and would have led them to the field himself had not his calling and the infirmities of old age forbidden him.

This Bishop, James Stanley, had his failings. It is of him that Fuller quaintly remarks : " I blame not the Bishop for passing the summer with his brother, the Earl of Derby, in Lancashire, but for living all the winter at Somersham with one who was not his sister, and who wanted nothing to make her his wife save marriage." The result of this connexion was the birth of Sir John Stanley, who led the Bishop's force at the battle of Flodden, and gained a high reputation on that field. He entered a monastery in 1528 and died in the cloister. His wife, " Dame Margaret," had intended to enter a nunnery tit the same time that her husband gave up the world and became dead to the law by entering the monastery, but the dame seems to have thought better of it, and comforted herself for the loss of one husband by marrying another. Her second lord was Sir Urian Brereton, and by him she had a family, through which the Honford estates were transmitted to her descendants for many generations.

This Sir John Stanley, who commenced life as a soldier and ended it as a priest, seems to have been of a naturally subdued disposition. His character was the opposite of that of his father, the jolly Bishop. Sir John loved the preacher's motto, " All is vanity," and where he could, he liked to inscribe it openly. This natural tendency to melancholy was deepened and increased by the stigma of his birth, which he could not forget. The stain on his father's life and his death excommunicated-for the Bishop had died under the ban of the Church, owing to his connexion with the lady who was not his sister-would not let him call the Bishop by the name of father, nor does he use this expression in his letters.



see also Draper House of Stanley

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000