Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cusworth Hall: Butterflies and Bumble Bees, and what the Butler saw!

If you happen to be passing CUSWORTH HALL near Doncaster today, be sure to check out their BUTTERFLIES AND BUMBLE BEES event this afternoon. The weather seems to be fine today, in spite of a spot of summer rain earlier!

Cusworth Hall near Doncaster

Boring old M.E./CFS has spat on my attendance chances, but don't miss yours!

I have a bit of a vested interest in Cusworth. My poor long-suffering friends and family will know this by heart, but in case you don't, my link is this: my paternal great gran, twin Eliza Barrass, nee Wright (1857-1905) had a sister Lucy, the baby of the family born in 1865.

 Lucy married the love of her life, Charles Betts, on 22nd December 1890 in her native Warmsworth, at the little church now demolished and its site entombed under the M1 motorway! 

Charles became the butler ("You rang, Milady?") to Lady Isabella Battie-Wrightson, her ladyship at Cusworth in the early 20th century. Lady Isabella presided over the Hall in the last of its glory days before it passed after her death to the last squire, Robert Cecil Battie-Wrightson, pictured here in Doncaster:

Robert Cecil Battie-Wrightson in Doncaster

 Charles Betts, a dapper little man, judging by the existing photos, came originally from Thorne and moved to Warmsworth where he met and married my great grandaunt Lucy. As butler to Lady Isabella, Charles moved into The Lodge, the gatehouse at Cusworth with his family.

They can be seen outside the Lodge c1908. In this photo, you can see great grandaunt Lucy (who sadly died shortly after this photo was taken, aged only 42, of colon cancer and cardiac failure in Doncaster Royal Infirmary), their daughter Mary Ann, who became a housemaid at the Hall, and Charles himself.

Lucy Betts nee Wright, my great gran Eliza Barrass's youngest sister, her daughter Mary Ann and husband Charles circa 1908 outside their home, The Lodge of Cusworth Hall. The Hall itself is visible though the gateway arch, while the Betts family lived rather more humbly behind those net curtains! The original photo of which this is only a scan, can be found on p 42 of the wonderful guidebook 'Cusworth Hall and the Battie Wrightson Family'  and remains copyright of its author Gordon Smith.  I was overjoyed and overwhelmed to discover it quite by sweet serendipity while researching my own family history.

Daughter Mary Ann worked at Cusworth Hall until after her marriage to Richard Ormerod Walshaw in 1936. The Betts family is mentioned in some of the excellent Cusworth guidebooks available around Doncaster, including the one that includes these photos, and another,  'Caring for Cusworth: servants recall a bygone era...' by Alison Morrish, the Curator at Cusworth when that book was produced in 1982. I bought mine, giddy with joy as I spotted the name Betts and this photo of Lucy looking the very image of a Barrass, at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery .

Another photo in Gordon Smith's book, shows Charles (if I'm recognising his distinctive features rightly!) at Lady Isabella's right hand side, enjoying one of the Hall's famous fancy dress balls before the Great War. Her Ladyship is enthroned as a rather magnificent Britannia! 

Fancy Dress Party at Cusworth Hall prior to WW1, showing Lady Isabella and everyone on the Cusworth Estate, including my ancestors the Betts family. Scan of original photo on p 43 of 'Cusworth Hall and the Battie-Wrightson Family' copyright Gordon Smith, Doncaster 1990.

During the First World War, Charles Betts was caught on camera when Lady Isabella entertained the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Cusworth. My paternal grandfather, Bruce Aaron Barrass, (1891-1973) was in the same regiment.  I wish among granddad Bruce's endless loquacious stories of the past, which so fascinated me as a child, he could have spoken about his uncle Charles, butler at Cusworth Hall! Instead I had the fun of discovering this rich vein of ancestry for myself!

Housemaid, handyman and my great granduncle Charles Betts the Butler at Cusworth Hall, c 1910 (photo detail from p 41 of 'Cusworth Hall and the Battie Wrightson Family' original photo copyright Gordon Smith, Doncaster 1990)

If like me, you've missed those bees and butterflies, don't waste the opportunity through the summer of spending some time with your family, or just relaxing on your own, exploring Cusworth's beautiful and interesting Hall set in its peaceful rolling grounds with magnificent trees, lawns and soothing water features. 

Cusworth Hall is one of the real precious jewels in Doncaster's battered but beautiful crown!

Some more info on this link

and on Cusworth Hall's own excellent website: http://www.cusworth-hall.co.uk/


  1. Interesting connection? My Great Grandfather, Frederick Wright c 1878 was the GamesKeeper at Cusworth. His youngest daughter, Mabel, b. 1904, lived in the estate until her death in c 1990. I don't know if the cottage still has the iron sign on it "Miss Mabel's Cottage".

  2. Wow -Sue! Thanks so much for the comment. I've read about your great grandfather Frederick being the Gamekeeper at Cusworth and have tried to discover if his/your Wright family are in any way related to my great grandmother Eliza Wright (b 1857 at Warmsworth, one of twins) who was sister to Lucy Betts who's mentioned in my blog here. I couldn't find a connection (I know it's a common enough surname). That's fascinating about Mabel! It would certainly be interesting to see whether the iron sign is still there! Such a beautiful place!

  3. Hello again. I noticed I made an error - the sign is "Miss Wrights Cottage" I had to dig out a photo I took last time I was there. I also had a family "Auntie", Bertie was her name, that lived in the Gatehouse in the 60/70's. I remember visiting there as a small child and being very scared of the fox stole she had. We also spent many hours catching tadpoles in the pond. I haven't been there since 2000, but loved to visit every time I was back in the UK. I would love to know more about this part of our family history. Hopefully, I will get back over one day in the near future with time to explore it.