Somebody recently asked me about my photographs of Lady Blantyre’s Rock. I can see why she is intrigued. Why is a rock in a Yorkshire country estate named after a member of the Scottish aristocracy? Read on and find out.
In the late 1980s my sister went to live in Thwaites Brow, a village overlooking the Aire Valley and the town of Keighley, West Yorkshire. Later she moved down the hill to another little village, Long Lee. When I drive from Long Lee to my home in Cleethorpes, NE Lincolnshire, I go up and over a steep hill, past the “St. Ives Estate” and down into another village called Harden. No, not St. Ives the Cornwall seaside town. This St. Ives is a country estate full of beautiful woods.
The estate is open to the public. If I choose, near the bottom of the hill I can turn left and drive through these woods. Eventually I come to some very old houses, with courtyards, and a big old mansion house which is now a residential home for people with Special Needs. In amongst all this is a golf course, an agricultural research institution, and a great coppice or pond – almost a lake.
Enticingly the whole estate is ringed by a high wall, with only a handful of gaps. You long to see what is on the other side. One day I walked through such a gap, half way up the hill from Harden. Beyond that wall is a wonderland of trees and ancient history. I saw a sign saying, “To Lady Blantyre’s Rock” but was short of time so resolved to return.
Later I found another gap, nearer to Long Lee, and after going a mile the wrong way I found that rock, and took photos.
So, What it’s All About
I forgot all about this until someone prodded me into doing some research. There is a handful of useful websites providing information. The best by far is the “Friends of St. Ives” site, constructed by local volunteers. Due thanks to that. Here is the story in my own words.
Let’s start at the very beginning. This land has yielded items dating from the Neolithic\Bronze age. There is an earthwork there of roughly the same age. The Monks of Rievaux were here from the 12th Century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540. It is rumoured that a famous General Fairfax once camped here and lost 200 men (who are buried here somewhere). From 1540 the first single “owner” of the estate was Walter Paslew of the local East Riddlesden. In the 1600s the Milners and Laycocks of nearby town Bingley took ownership. My understanding is that the land was called “Harden Grange”, as you might expect.
Then in 1635 the Ferrands of Bingley bought the land. They apparently had Norman ancestry going back to the 12th century. As far as I can tell, the Ferrands had some allotments in Bingley called “St. Ives”, where they grew superior gooseberries! When they moved, “St. Ives” became “Harden Grange” and vice versa. The “new” St. Ives was theirs until they sold it to the local council in the 1920s for £38,000!
Through intermarriage, the Ferrands became linked with some notable families, such as the Busfeilds (yes, correct spelling), and the Richardsons (famous for their gardening prowess). In fact some of my in-laws have ancestors who were married to Ferrands! My sister is currently writing a book about this.
A notable member of the Ferrand family was William Busfeild Ferrand (1809-1889). He was a (twice) MP who advocated for the working classes. William supported the 10 Hours Factory Act and tried to improve the Poor Law. In short a hero. Just above Lady Blantyre Rock there is a great pinnacle dedicated to William. Interesting that he lived only a few miles away from the famous Saltaire Village, built by a humanitarian mill owner (that’s another story).
In 1847 William married Fanny Mary Stuart, daughter of Robert Walter Stuart, 11th Lord of Blantyre. Aha. And the Lord’s wife, a regular visitor to St Ives, was our Lady Blantyre. In fact she was much more than a visitor: with her daughter she redesigned and reconstructed the estate!
Yes, their ancestors included King James VI of Scotland, and before that, famous warrior king Robert The Bruce. While I’m name dropping, the famous Prime Minister was a guest at St. Ives mansion on many occasions too. In short, some interesting family connections were involved.
For the record, Lady Blantyre died on the Rock of Ages at Lennox Love, in East Lothian, Scotland (aged 84). William passed away in 1889 (aged 80). Fanny died later in France.
So there we are. Lady Blantyre spend many years sitting under that rock. An inscription was left there about her, and a wood-carved model. Very impressive they are too. All hidden in those woods.