I love old houses for much the same reason I loved Billy Bunter and stories of public schools, highwaymen and cavaliers as a child. All fed the imagination of one brought up in a grid pattern of red brick terraces. Make no mistake; I loved the streets I grew up in but only after they’d been transformed into gullies and canyons or streets haunted by cold-eyed Gestapo . . . and worse. Now I wander old houses, castles and churches but this time to write rather than read and imagine. A case in point is the Lascelles family who briefly pop up in a yet to be released book.
The Lascelles came over with William the Conqueror and have been kicking around Yorkshire ever since. They're still there and quite likely will be in the C22nd. They've been around a long time.
In the English Civil war they were for most of the time on the winning side siding with Oliver Cromwell and later sided with William of Orange, the opportunist Dutchman who dethroned James II, the last Stuart king. But it is Henry Lascelles (1690 – 1749) that set the foundations of their subsequent wealth—much of which came from their large sugar plantations in Barbados. Oozing money, Henry Lascelles purchased the Harewood estate in 1738, but cut his own wrists in 1753, going to prove money doesn’t buy everything.
Four years later his son, Edwin Lascelles began building the house that was finally completed in 1771.
In 1784, Edwin’s brother Daniel died childless. Edwin took over his inheritance and thus became the proud possessor of 22 plantations, 27,000 acres in the West Indies and nearly 3,000 slaves. We are talking about £28 million in today’s money added to what he’d already inherited from his father. The house served the Lascelles well until the 1840’s when Henry Lascelles, the third Earl of Harewood, decided that with thirteen children, he needed more space. Second storeys were added to each of the flanking wings to provide the necessary bedrooms. The house as we see it today is the direct result of Henry’s fecundity and the architect Sir Charles Barry.
The very formal parterre and terrace were also added during this period of improvement.
We walked a lot.