By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by Leeds Museums©
Photography supplied by Reed Gallery©
The United Kingdom has, throughout its long existence, walked hand and hand with history. They have been sisters, navigating the changing landscape, politics and Monarchy. Yet, sometimes, there are enigmas that emerge from the vast shadowy history of this great land that have remained undiscovered. As if chipping away at the dense black outer-shell of a rock, piece by piece, until a sparkling diamond is exposed, glinting in the bright sunlight.
Diamonds are rare, hence their eye-watering price, but not all are carved into rings or necklaces. No, some take other forms, and in this case have stood perfectly in view, glinting so brightly, it’s astonishing how we’ve all missed it.
Temple Newsam House is nestled between the villages of Whitkirk and Colton. A parkland that stretches for near 1000 acres boasts large sprawling fields of green land, endless walks and Leeds’ second biggest sector of protected Woodland.
But that is just the surface, peel away the modern-day skin of the estate and Temple Newsam has an unrivalled history of drama, scandal, elegance and a touch of the supernatural. Temple Newsam is a treasure trove of wonder, one that has mainly been kept hidden, until now.
Whilst the House and stables date back over 500 years, the Estate goes back even further. First mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1066, the land was owned by Ilbert de Lacy, 1st Baron of Pontefract. Yet, recently discovered records now date Temple Newsam, or ‘Neuhusam’ even earlier, where it was owned by Anglo-Saxon thanes, Dunston and Glunier.
Yet, perhaps the Estates next owners are one of the most famous, the Knights Templars. The famed Holy Order were gifted Temple Newsam in 1155, and the earliest foundations of the settlements are dated back to this time. Such was the Templars hold on the Estate, that one is said to be buried in the Crypt at Whitkirk Church, just a few minutes’ walk from the House.
And whilst the land would pass from owner to owner, it wouldn’t be until 1500 when the earliest version of the House would emerge. Built by Sir Phillip Darcy, the Tudor country home would become a statement of grandeur and opulence unrivalled by anywhere outside of London. The beauty of Temple Newsam would garner it the nickname ‘Hampton Court of the North,’ one that still stands today.
After the execution of Thomas, Lord Darcy in 1537, the House would be seized by the Crown, eventually being bequeathed by Henry VIII to his niece, Margaret, Countess of Lennox. She and her husband, Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox, would provide Temple Newsam with a monumental claim to the historic Thrones of both England and Scotland. The couple’s son, Henry, Lord Darnley was born in the country house of Temple Newsam in 1545. He would later go on to marry, arguably one of Britain’s most revered and notorious historic figures, Mary, Queen of Scots.
On the moment of Lord Darnley’s murder in 1565, Temple Newsam, once again occupied a new owner – Ludovico, Duke of Lennox in 1603. He wouldn’t own the property for long as Sir Arthur Ingram would then purchase the estate for an astonishing £12,000! It was here over the next 20 years that Temple Newsam began to transform into the Estate we see today.
Throughout the following years, elements would be added and removed from the House, this included the employment of Capability Brown, who re-landscaped the park. His widow would eventually go on to complete the work, and his daughter would controversially begin an affair with King George IV, who would visit the Estate in secret.
As you read through the history of Temple Newsam, albeit mine is somewhat condensed, what you quickly realise is the astronomical change the Estate has experienced and the vast history which has shaped it. The saying “If the walls could talk” have never resonated as clearly as when applied to the lavish interior of Temple Newsam House. Each door, tapestry, artefact and portrait, has in some way come to define the very nature of the world surrounding this most intriguing home.
And whilst outside the gardens of Capability Brown have all but faded away, the elegance and dominating majesty of Temple Newsam has remained, undiminished though sadly unrecognised. Inside and out, the House whispers of times gone by, a 3D postcard of historic importance. From the spiritual footsteps of Anne Boleyn, the clanging blades of the Knights Templar, the varied history of Temple Newsam, is its ace in the pack, one of many.
Others are dotted around the many rooms in the House, from the Chinese wallpaper, gifted by King George IV, which is said to be priceless, to the dramatic architecture of the Picture Gallery and State Staircase. Temple Newsam has a collection that should be shouted from the rooftops.
But the Estate’s allure goes beyond its history or artwork. To those in search of the ‘beyond’, the converging world of the living and the dead, then Temple Newsam defines that very description. Numerous spectres haunt the corridors of the House, yet two in particular have become synonymous with the Estate’s DNA.
Beneath Temple Newsam are a network of tunnels said to be haunted by a ‘Violent Monk’, who after betraying the Knights Templar in the nationwide purge in 1307, was condemned to death after the purge failed. It is believed that the Monk never left, and for the many who work at the House, they have experienced objects being thrown at the them, including rocks and coal.
But perhaps Temple Newsam’s most infamous ghost, supposedly the most sighted in Yorkshire, is the spirit of Mary Ingram, or the Blue Lady. Her death, at the age of fourteen, unfolded after being attacked on her way home by Highwaymen. Stealing her Pearl Necklace, the teenager became distraught, unable to eat or sleep. She would hide her jewellery, frightened the Highwaymen would return. Such was her distress, and her evasion to food, her demise came in the shape of starvation.
Her ghost has been seen in multiple areas of the House, including the Gothic Room where her portrait rests above the fireplace, and throughout the years she has become as much a part of the House as the walls themselves.
And whilst history records show Mary Ingram to have lived in the House, two ‘guests’ who almost spent their final resting place at Temple Newsam, were the aforementioned Queen of Scots, who now rests opposite her ‘sister’ Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey, and ironically, Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn. Though due to the sheer number of wills, detailing numerous requests for her grave site, and her unexpected execution, Anne, instead of Temple Newsam, was finally interred in the Church of St Peter ad Vincula opposite the Tower Of London.
As you can see, the vast history of Temple Newsam is staggering and its touch on Britain’s changing landscape is a testament to its longevity. And that longevity continues up until present day. Whilst there is no actual number on how much the House and Estate actually cost, historians believe that all together, if purchased today, you would need over £1-billion pounds. And with rumours of major investment coming over the next few years, the latest being the addition of the ‘Go Ape’ climbing course, the future looks bright for Temple Newsam. But does it deserve to be brighter?
It has long been said that the great Manor Houses of our country are the jewels which bestow the Crown of Great Britain. And sometimes in history, one of those jewels may somehow fall away, roll across the floorboards of time, stopping just out of view of a blinds eye. And there it will sit, for years gathering dust, until one day someone, somewhere will stumble across its refracting beauty. They will lift it high and place it rightfully back in its place of coronated majesty for all to see. That jewel is Temple Newsam, discovered and shining brightly. All it needs now, is someone to hold it aloft and place it back in Britain’s Crown, a place it deserves to sparkle.