From the Duke of Newcastle to the Plumptres of Fredville

Thomas Pelham Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle
Thomas Pelham Holles, 1st Duke of NewcastleThomas Pelham-Holles, Lord Holles,  was born in 1693, the son of Thomas Pelham, 1st Lord Pelham, by his second wife, Lady Grace Holles, younger sister of John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  When Thomas’s uncle died in 1711, and his father in 1712, he inherited both their considerable estates, part of which was the Manor of Fredville and other property in Nonington and adjoining parishes. When he became of age in 1714 he was one of the largest land-owners in the country with huge influence and patronage in Sussex.

 Thomas, a Whig like his father and uncle, was an outspoken supporter of Hanoverian succession to the throne after the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and in reward George I made him Earl of Clare in 1714 and Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1715, titles previously held by his uncle, John Holles. During the next five years or so the young Duke entered into the complicated politics of early 18th century England gravitating towards the Whig faction led by Thomas Walpole. He became a protégée of Horace Walpole and served in his administration for twenty years or so until its fall in 1742. The Duke and Henry Pelham, his brother, then continued to hold office as Secretary of State and Prime-Minister respectively until Henry’s death in 1754 after which the Duke was twice PM. He served as a Secretary of State for a total of thirty years, during which time he controlled British foreign policy.

The Duke’s massive land-holdings included seven or so ‘rotten’ and pocket boroughs with the right to elect members of Parliament who were nominated by the Duke and therefore beholden to him. This gave him considerable influence in Parliament but such influence was expensive to maintain and although he had a considerable annual income from his lands and offices  he was at times under financial pressure which forced the sale of many of the Dukes assets, one of which was the Manor of Fredville and other property in Nonington and adjoining parishes.

In 1741 Margaretta Bridges, the sister of Sir Brooke Bridges of Goodnestone, purchased from the Duke: “the manor of Fredville, Fredville Farm,  Frogham Farm and property in Fredville, Frogham, Barfreston, Nonington, Knowlton, Womenswould and Easole”. After Denzil, Lord Holles, acquired the Fredville estate in the 1680’s the old Boys family mansion house appears to have fallen into decline and was eventually used as the farm house for the above mentioned Fredville Farm, presumably consisting of the much of the land that was later enclosed to make Fredville Park.

In 1742 the spinster Margaretta Bridges leased nearby St. Alban’s Court House from William Hammond for three years or more, most likely as a suitable residence whilst the old Fredville mansion was re-built as a two storey Adam’s style house which was completed around 1745 or 1746. This was some years before her marriage in 1750 to John Plumptre, esquire, of Northampton, who is often credited with the rebuilding of the house. John Plumptre’s father and grand-father, also both called John, had both been M.P.’s for Nottingham in the early 18th century. There were no children from the marriage and on Margaret’s death in January of 1756 Fredville passed to her husband, who subsequently remarried and had a son, also called John, with his second wife.

Mrs. Boys Behrens, a descendant of the Boys’ of Fredville, wrote about the rebuilding of the Fredville house in her book “Under Thirty-Seven Kings. Legends of Kent & Records of the family of Boys” published in 1926. She recorded that the new Fredville manor house had been re-built on the old flint foundations of the previous house noting that the cellars and the covered-in well in the centre of the old kitchen were the only parts of the original house incorporated into the new mansion, and that a secret passage supposedly led from the well to an old ice-house.  The ice-house was sunk twenty feet into the ground and had a large old oak door, half of which was, in her opinion,  stolen for firewood when mining commenced nearby whilst the remaining half was removed at a later date. The ice house is still there and mainly intact but has been partially filled in.

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