HRH The Duke of York
Soon after the Hobart’s arrived at the Hall they began entertaining on a grand scale. On Saturday September 27th 1766, HRH The Duke of York, a younger brother of King George III, spent a weekend at Nocton and danced with Mrs Hobart in the Lincoln Assembly Rooms on the Monday evening.
On the 29th December 1767 the Hobarts gave a grand masquerade at Nocton Hall which may have been a house-warming to celebrate their advent. The guests were met at the door by a Turk in a white bearskin, who took their tickets. They were received by Mr Hobart as 'Pan' – his dress dark brown satin, made quite close to his shape, shag breeches, cloven feet, a round shock wig, a mask, a leopard skin over his back, and in his hand a shepherd’s pipe. Mrs Hobart was dressed in a muslin petticoat, puffed very small and spotted with spangles. Several dancers, including the hostess, had two costumes. Among the guests were Lord Exeter, Lord and Lady Vere Bertio, Lady Betty Chaplin, Sir Cecil and Lady Wray, the Huttons, the Sibthorps, the Custs, the Amcotts, the Neviles and all the great Lincolnshire families, all in fancy dress.
Creator of Modern Nocton
The Honourable George Hobart, who may be called the creator of modern Nocton, was the oldest son of the second marriage of the Earl of Buckinghamshire. He married Albania oldest daughter and coheiress of Lord and Lady Vere Bertie of Branston and he was for many years MP for Beeralston in Devon. In 1762 he was appointed secretary to the Embassy at St Petersburgh, by his half brother, John, second Earl of Buckinghamshire, who was ambassador to the Russian Court 1762 – 1765.
The spirit of “lands improvement” was abroad in Lincolnshire and the scheme for draining the Fens may have suggested the development of the Nocton Estate. To enable him to effect this with more ease and economy, he represented himself as patron of the Vicarage, though the Crown had presented every incumbant since 1667.
Church & Vicarage
By a deed of exchange dated January 6th 1773, he gave the site of the present vicarage and church in exchange for the old vicarage and church which stood in inconvenient proximity to the Hall. He destroyed every vestige of the old church, which had been dedicated to St Peter, except the font and Judge Ellis’s monument. The site of the churchyard is easily recognised by the level of the ground to the south-west of Nocton Hall.
The new vicarage was an enlargement of what was then known as Widow Storey’s homestead and the church, a mean structure, was erected where the present church now stands, and was consecrated on July 20th 1775.
In 1776 George Hobart, still representing himself as “patron of the vicarage of the parish church of Nocton and also impropriator of two-thirds of the great tithes thereof” obtained a private Act of Parliament for the enclosure of open fields and the commutation of the vicar’s tithes. The preamble recited that the open, unenclosed lands of the parish in heath, field and fen contained by estimation 4,500 acres or thereabouts.
Tradition describes his Countess Albinia, as a notorious gambler and a devotee of fare. When she won she went abroad in her sedan-chair, attended by gorgeous lackeys, to scatter largess among the poor and when she lost, Nocton had to be mortgaged (January 1786) and Branston had to be sold (1787), with the balance of the purchase money (after paying off her debts of honour), being laid out on some small properties at Dunston. Her breakfast parties, given at her villa adjoining Buckingham Palace – the site of which villa is now occupied by Hobart Place – were famous at the beginning of the 19th Century.
In 1789 another Act of Parliament was passed for embanking the enclosed fenland in the parishes of Nocton, Potterhanworth and Branston. The award of the Commissioners was dated January 11th 1793 and the works involved the erection of the wind engine which served for 40 years to pump the waters of the Fen into the Witham.
In 1793 the Earl of Buckinghamshire died and the Honourable George Hobart succeeded his half-brother as the third Earl.
The autumn of 1793 saw the first beginnings of a regular school at Nocton. In that year a certain John Brackenbury of Gedney, having quarrelled with his father came to lodge at the Plough Inn near Potterhanworth and married Alice Tether, daughter of the tenant of the Manor Farm.
Brackenbury had been well educated and at the invitation of the curate, Dr Willis, went to live at the vicarage and started a private school there. Soon afterwards he moved into a house, converted from two cottages at the east end of Town Street, and obtained leave to build a school on some waste ground at his own expense, the materials being carted free by his neighbours.
George Hobart, the third Earl of Buckinghamshire died on November 14th 1804, and was buried at Nocton on November 21st.