1917 - 1921

There will be more stories of Lady Berners, the 12th Baroness Berners, appearing on this website from time to time. But this item covers her death at the age of 81 on 18 August 1917, as the last member of the Berners family to live at The Hall, and the sale of the Ashwellthorpe Hall Estate in 1918.

Emma Harriet Wilson married the 3rd baronet Sir Henry Thomas Tyrwhitt at St Michaels's Church, Pimlico by Licence, on 3 November 1853, when she was 17 and they had twelve children, many born in Ashwellthorpe. Emma Harriet Tyrwhitt nee Wilson inherited the Berners Barony in her own right, on the death of her twice-married but childless uncle, Henry William the 11th Baron Berners, when he died in 1871 and his Will stipulated that Ashwellthorpe Hall be entailed so that any inheritor would be a tenant for life. Whilst her husband Sir Henry was alive, they spent time at his home Stanley Hall, Astley Abbots, Shropshire but after his death in 1894, she lived permanently at Ashwellthorpe Hall, where she had been brought up. Her oldest living son, Raymond Robert Tyrwhitt-Wilson had already inherited the 4th Tyrwhitt baronetcy from his father in 1894.

Lady Berners' immediate successor to the Berners' Barony and the Estate was the above Raymond Robert who had been baptised at All Saints Church, Ashwellthorpe, on 18 October 1855, and who became the 13th Baron Berners immediately upon her death. He did not marry and he lived at Stanley Hall where he was High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1910, but also lived at 4 Down Street, Mayfair, London where he died on 5 September 1918 without children. Probate was granted to two of his brothers - the Honourable Rupert Tyrwhitt Major in the Royal Artillery and the Honourable Reverend Leonard Francis Tyrwhitt – his estate amounting to over £23,000.

Raymond Robert Tyrwhitt Wilson - 13th Baron Berners
Raymond Robert Tyrwhitt Wilson - 13th Baron Berners

Therefore, on 5 September 1918, the Berners Barony passed to the next heir Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt Wilson born 18 September 1883, to the Honourable Hugh Tyrwhitt and his wife Julia nee Foster. Hugh had been a Commodore in the Royal Navy and an Equerry to King Edward VII, but he had died in 1907.. 

Gerald Hugh was educated at Eton and studied in France and Germany, before acting as an Honorary Attaché in Constantinople and Rome from 1909. In his lifetime, he became a composer, artist and author having already written songs, orchestral and piano pieces before he inherited the title.

Much more can be found out about him in any biographical dictionary and also from his four autobiographical books, particularly First Childhood, published in 1934, in which he writes in somewhat veiled terms about his austere grandmother Lady Berners (called Lady Bourchier) and Ashwellthorpe Hall (Stackwell Hall). He describes Stackwell Hall as a gloomy, unattractive home, deformed by later additions out of all recognition, surrounded by a moat which was generally half-dry and always rather smelly and shut in on all sides by tall fir trees, and looking as grim as an ogre's castle. He adds "I was always thankful that I never had to stay there often, and never for any length of time".

The Hall and Estate were already being advertised for sale in newspapers before Gerald inherited on 5 September 1918, but perhaps the continuation of the sale process by him gives an indication why he asked the Trustees of the 11th Baron Berners' 1871 Will for the entail on Ashwellthorpe Hall to be lifted within days of becoming 14th Baron so that the Hall and Estate could be sold!

*an entail meant limiting the inheritors to tenants for life of (property) over a number of generations so that ownership remained within a particular family or group

Entail lifted
Entail lifted

The Trustees gave consent for the sale of Ashwellthorpe Hall Estate on 28 September 1918 pursuant to the Settled Land Act 1882 – 1890. The entail was broken The Hall and its c.1118 Acre Estate was put on the market by Auction at the Royal Hotel, Norwich, on Saturday 28 September 1918 in 33 Lots, by Knight, Frank & Rutley of Hanover Square, London. It was advertised in many newspapers both local and further afield, e.g. The Scotsman. 

The whole Estate was sold for £38,500 – by some calculations, this is equivalent to £2.5 million today – to a Lawrence Bernard Lister, Auctioneer, of Stowmarket, Suffolk who, immediately afterwards at the same sale, instructed that the individual Lots should be offered for sale. No offer was made for Lot 1, Ashwellthorpe Hall its stabling, gardens, vinery, greenhouse and kitchen garden, together with a double cottage, small farmery, three rich old pastures amounting to c. 25 Acres in all. A good description of the interior of the Hall itself can be seen from the Auction document below:

The large tenanted farms: Hall Farm, Home or Church Farm, Wood Farm and Black Hall Farm (with its land in the parishes of Ashwellthorpe, Fundenhall and Wymondham) were all sold, as were some of the other Lots. Lower Wood and Fundenhall Wood were sold to the Co-operative Wholesale Society who had a brush-making factory in Wymondhamm, but other Lots were withdrawn with only a certain amount offered or withdrawn completely. So, the Estate was well and truly broken up – but there was no sale of Ashwellthorpe Hall.

On 7 February 1919, the Hall and the two blacksmiths' establishments and three cottages (Lots 8, 17 and 24) were sold on to a Frederick William Wateridge of Troston Hall, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, for £2,750. He was formerly an Auctioneer but became a gentleman farmer when he resided at Troston Hall, now a Grade II* listed building. It is not known whether Frederick Wateridge lived in Ashwellthorpe Hall – his name does not appear on any of the Electoral Registers for Ashwellthorpe, but he was known in the village as he was approached by its War Memorial Committee in April 1919 for a possible donation to the Memorial Funds.

Much use has been made of conveyances, indentures, abstract of title covering the sale of the Hall, which are in a personal private collection. From these, it can be seen that Ashwellthorpe Hall was sold ny Frederick Wateridge to Captain/Major Leslie Fletcher of Stanfield Hall, Wymondham, for the sum of £3,450 in September 1921. Major Fletcher and his wife Elsa remained at Ashwellthorpe Hall for over thirty years and more can be read about the Fletcher's residence at the Hall in the future Part Two.


30 September 1929 - 23 January 2023

The Bourchier family were the first of the Barons Berners created in the mid-15th Century, followed by descent through Knyvett and Wilson families. The ancestral home of the Berners Barony was Ashwellthorpe, encompassing the later Ashwellthorpe Hall. Ashwellthorpe stayed in the family until the death in 1917 of the 12th Baroness Berners, Lady Emma Harriet Tyrwhitt nee Wilson. She was the last of this landed family to own and live in Ashwellthorpe Hall and there will be many articles on this history of Ashwellthorpe website which will feature her and her activities in the village. After her death in 1917 the title and estate passed, within a year, to her oldest living son and then his nephew. The Ashwellthorpe Hall Estate was sold; the Berners' title remained in the family.

But, although no direct family members have lived in Ashwellthorpe for over 100 years the family name of Knyvett is kept alive by Knyvett Green in Ashwellthorpe.

Sadly, the 16th Baroness Berners - Lady Pamela Vivien Kirkham nee Williams - died on 23 January 2023 at the age of 93. She inherited the title after her mother's death and took up her seat in the House of Lords in 1995, particularly speaking on health and nursing matters. . She visited Ashwellthorpe back in 2000, to launch the publication of the 5th Impression of Ashwellthorpe Hall and Its History by Michael Lawrence on behalf of the Ashwellthorpe Hall Association which ran The Hall as a holiday hotel for disabled motorists. ..


A Memorial Service was held at St Mary's Church in Frome, Somerset on Saturday 18 February 2023 and the Order of Service is reproduced below. The title 17th Baron Berners has passed to her oldest son Rupert Kirkham.