Doddington Hall, just a few miles outside Lincoln, is a wonderful Elizabethan manor house, notable for never having been sold in its entire history. Built in 1595 by the architect Robert Smythson for Thomas Tailor who was registrar to the Bishop of Lincoln the house underwent a transformation in the Georgian period when it was inherited by Sir John Hussey Delaval (1728-1808) and the interior remodelled.
The house is replete with many wonderful portraits, from Mary Queen of Scots to portraits of the family including one of the Earl and Countess of Mexborough (the Countess was sister to John Hussey Delaval) pictured dressed in the robes they wore for the coronation of George III in 1761.
John Hussey Delaval was the second son and Doddington had come into his family as the inheritance of his mother, Rhoda Apreece. Francis Blake Delaval, the eldest of the Delaval brothers and the black sheep of the family, inherited the family’s principal estate of Seaton Delaval in Northumberland, Rhoda stipulating that Doddington Hall could not be owned by the same person who owned the Northumberland estate.
A full-length portrait of Francis Blake Delaval by Sir Joshua Reynolds can be viewed at Doddington Hall. A true rake, he married Isabella, widow of Lord Nassau Powlett for her money (she was much older than him) but Isabella ended up taking legal action against her husband due to his affair with an actress, Miss La Roche or Elizabeth Roach. Delaval himself took to the stage, acting with Samuel Foote.
Rhoda’s decision to split the estate in this way between the two eldest sons paid dividends for the future of Doddington Hall; whilst Francis was a spendthrift and a gambler John was the opposite, prudent and conscientious. His redecoration of the Hall, even installing double glazing to the windows, is still extant to this day making it a real treat to visit for anyone who, like us, is fascinated by the Georgian era.
When Francis, having run through his fortune and destroyed his health, died of a stroke at the young age of 44 years in 1771 Sir John Delaval launched a lengthy legal process to gain control of the Seaton Delaval estate too, eventually succeeding by an agreement to pay £400 a year to his younger brother Edward, but whilst John gained Seaton Delaval he lived out his days at his beloved Doddington Hall.
Of all the Delaval brothers, only Sir John Hussey Delaval of Doddington had a son and this son, also named John, died of consumption in Bath before he attained his majority. Doddington, therefore, passed to Edward, the third brother, and then to Edwards daughter Sarah, the wife of Admiral James Gunman.
The Gunmans lived in Dover and there Sarah, who was twenty-five years younger than her husband, fell in love with a dashing soldier, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars and a widower, Colonel George Ralph Payne Jarvis. Visitors to Doddington today can see his military uniform. Admiral Gunman died in 1824 and Sarah, still young, was free to marry the man she loved. However, what looked to become a Regency love story quickly became a tragedy instead. Sarah, suffering from consumption, followed her husband to the grave just six months later, still a widow. As a testament to the love she bore for the dashing Colonel she left everything she owned, including the estate of Doddington Hall, to the man she had wanted to marry. Colonel Jarvis moved into the house, married and sired a family and it is his descendants who live at the Hall today.
A new addition to Doddington Hall this year is the pyramid folly set in the grounds which is reminiscent of the Egyptian Pyramid built in 1778 as one of the follies in the pleasure gardens of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s lover the Duke of Orléans’ house at Monceau, Paris.
Pyramid at Doddington with the Pyramid at Monceau, Paris below.
More information on Doddington Hall can be found on their website and also in their guidebook which gives full details of the estate and the people who have inhabited it.
UPDATEThe Doddington Hall guide book says that Sir John’s son, John Delaval, died of consumption at Bath, but one of our followers Kathleen Jones (@KAF1athome), a volunteer at Seaton Deleval Hall, has been in touch with a different version which we simply had to share.Young John was sickly and was sent to Bristol to recuperate but he had an eye for the ladies and tried his luck with a serving girl named Annie at the Hotwells. He picked on the wrong girl though, Annie kicked him in the crotch and, because she was wearing clogs at the time, caused him to haemorrhage, and it was this which led to his death.A mausoleum was built for him at Seaton Delaval but, as it was going to cost too much money to consecrate it, he was buried at Doddington instead.