Chapter 11: The Last Fairfaxes and Sale of the Estate

The next owner of Gilling Castle was the eldest son of Charles Gregory Pigott Fairfax and Mary Goodrick: Charles Gregory Fairfax, born in 1796. He married a Roman Catholic, Mary the eldest daughter of Michael Tasburgh of Burghwallis Hall near Doncaster. After being at Brandsby in their early married life, they took up residence in Gilling Castle in 1846. He died without issue in 1871, and the estate passed to his sister Lavinia Barnes. She lived at the Rectory in Gilling until her husband, the Rev. Barnes, died in 1871; she then returned to the castle to live with her brother who was still alive at the time, although she had been allowed to stay in the Rectory until a new Rector was appointed. The parish was for a short time served from Oswaldkirk.

E.H. Wilson’s account of Lavinia’s character was that she was refined, intellectual and kindly, calm and of a sweet disposition. However Barbara Charlton, nee Tasburgh, gives rather a different account of her in her diary. To quote:

“Neither in youth or age was Lavinia a safe person to ride the waters on. In her day she made terrible mischief up to the day of her death she went on working irreparable harm R.I.P.”

By her portrait which now hangs in the entrance hall of the castle she certainly looks a formidable woman.

Lavinia Barnes will be remembered for the tablet which she erected at the head of the south aisle in Gilling Church. Here she recorded the principal members of the Gilling branch of the Fairfax family together with dates. She was also instrumental in erecting the altar tomb on which the Fairfax effigies now rest. She also created what is known today as Mrs Barnes’ walk. This starts near the dog kennels and continues along the escarpment to the site of the temple overlooking the lakes.

Lavinia died in 1885 and the estate passed to her sister Harriet, who was married to Captain Thomas Charles Cholmely RN of Brandsby Hall. On acquiring the property the name Fairfax was included in the Cholmely name. On his death in 1889 his eldest son Hugh Charles Fairfax Cholmely succeeded. He sold the estate in 1895 to Mr George Wilson, and so ended the Fairfax connection with Gilling Castle after 406 years.

During the period of the Cholmely regime attempts were made to provide a more adequate school building. A piece of land conveniently situated was required. Approaches were made to the Cholmelys by the Church of England representatives, but owing to the Cholmelys adherence to the Roman Catholic faith a condition that the headmaster could be a Roman Catholic was unacceptable to the Church of England, as the school was a Church of England foundation. This attempt was therefore unsuccessful. However, when Mr Wilson took over he unhesitatingly granted that piece of land on which the school building now stands. The only condition in the deed was that the land must be used for educational purposes or the land reverts to the original owner.

A school had been founded in Gilling some time soon after 1570, it being a provision of the will of Sir Nicholas Fairfax. Where this school was we do not know, but at the time when the Ordnance Survey map was made in 1852 the school is indicated on the site of the Roman Catholic Chapel. The new school building was erected and opened in 1897. The previous school had been built in 1837. The new school was subscribed for as follows:

Mr Wilson £250
Canon Hudson £250
Sir William Worsley £50
Education Society £100
National Society £20
Fetes and Bazaars £100

The school cost £1000 to build.

The old (1837) school building then became the Village Reading Room, and remained so until the estate was finally sold and split up in 1929.

Mr Wilson’s tenure of the castle was short, only 9 years. It was then sold to Mr William Slingsby Hunter in 1904. He made considerable modifications to the castle, making it a more comfortable place in which to live. In 1929 his son Mr Kenneth S. Hunter sold the estate to a syndicate, of which Mr Todd of Northallerton was the acting representative. At this juncture the estate was split up into lots and sold separately.

In the schedule of the sale some of the prices the various lots went for are given:

Gilling Castle, Parkland, Woodland, Grounds and Gardens £11,300
Village or Gilling Farm £1,450
Grange Farm, Gilling £1,400
Parkhouse Farm £2,800
“The Cottage” Buildings and Land £1,500

The schedule also lists the rents raised from the various tenants:

Redcar House Farm was let for £150 per annum
Fairfax Arms and land £76 per annum

In general the cottages in the village were let at sums between £5 and £12 per annum. The most expensive house in the village was one let at £25 per annum.

All the outlying farms etc. were sold separately, while the castle and the park were purchased by the Ampleforth Community, and the castle building converted into a preparatory school for the College.

During the period between the first sale and the second, much of the valuable timber in the surrounding woodland, including the avenue of beech trees, was cut down and sold separately. The summer house or temple above the lakes was dismantled, and I understand some of the structure was transferred to the Abbey area. The site is still clear of trees and can be identified by the open area and the remains of a bricked housing, I presume for the water supply.

In the process of the sale by Mr Todd a further small piece of land was added to the school ground. This piece was to the north of the original site. There was no deed for this land, and so a deed of possession was acquired by the trustees, and the land is now firmly held by them. The trustees are the Rector and Churchwardens of Gilling East Parish Church.

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