Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Nocton Hall - Early/Mid 18th Century

Sir William Ellis-Bart

Sir William died in 1727 and was succeeded by his oldest son, Sir Richard, who collected a fine library at Nocton. Sir Richard died without issue, leaving his estates to his wife for life and after her death, to his youthful cousin George Hobart.

Shortly after Sir Richard's death, his widow married a Sir Francis Dashwood. It was said that on taking up residence at Nocton, he found the heath uncultivated, unenclosed, without any proper roads; he heard of poor folks, benighted and lost on its dreary waste, dying from prolonged exposure to cold and wind and snow and liable to attack by highwaymen. As a result, he conceived the idea of a land lighthouse and erected the Dunston Pillar. This was 92 feet in height with an octagon lantern on the top 15 and a half feet high, surrounded at its base by a gallery. It is still standing today, although not in its full height.

During this period the Howard family arrived in Nocton and took a farm in the village, vacant through the insolvency of a Mr John Kent whose creditors had to be content with 5/- in the £. At this time Mr William Headland was tenant of the Glebe Farm.

In the Nocton Registers is an entry of June 12th 1613 “Christopher Wilkinson, being murdered on the heath, was buried at Nocton.”

Around this time, Lord Vere Bertie of Branston Hall was the leader of a movement for draining the Fens, so they might be made to produce something more than a nominal rent. Sir Francis and Lady Dashwood subscribed £21 towards the expense of promoting the Witham Drainage Bill in Parliament. This became an Act in 1762 and the works carried out were of great advantage to Nocton and the neighbourhood.

In 1762, Sir Francis Dashwood became Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Bute’s Tory administration and in 1763 succeeded his uncle, Lord le Despencer and retired to his seat at West Wycombe allowing young George Hobart to take possession of his inheritance at Nocton.

Dunston Pillar - the land lighthouse

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