Holme Lacy House and the Scudamore Family

A society member is a distant descendant of the Scudamore Family and knowing of the society’s recent visit to Holme Lacy, she sent me this very interesting article, which I am sure you will all find as fascinating as I did.

Philip Skydmore (died 1419) was the first of his name to live at Holme Lacy. He was a younger son of the Skydmore alias Ewyas family of Rowlstone, Herefordshire, and had served in the wars in France. He married as his second wife Agnes, daughter and eventual co heiress of John Huntercombe, who brought him at the time of their marriage a life interest in Holampton (now Hollington Farm) in the right of William de la Barre (died 1363) who had been her first husband. Her eldest son George Skydmore (died 1442) somehow managed to convert his mother’s life interest in Hollanton to his own use, and held it as a quarter of a knight’s fee in 1428. His great-grandson John Skydmore (1486-1571) was a Gentleman Usher to Henry VIII which led later to the important office of Receiver in several counties at the suppression of the monasteries. He managed to enrich himself (as well as the King) with the lands and properties formerly belonging to the church, and acquired (with much more) the estates once owned by the monks at Abbey Dore. He built a fine Elizabethan house of brick (where the chapel was dedicated in 1546) for his family at Holm Lacy.

It was in his time (about 1530 and thereafter) when it became fashionable for the gentry to have Norman ancestors and he (along with the Bullen/Boleyns and a good many other families) “Frenchified” their names. His posterity was thereafter known largely as Scudamore, although frequently called Skidmore by the commonalty. His grandson Sir John Scudamore (1542-1623) married Mary, a daughter of Sir John Shelton, and a second cousin to Queen Elizabeth I (who so abused Lady Mary and that she broke her little finger when she learned of their secret marriage). Her manuscript book of the expenses of the Queen’s Wardrobe (with a complete description of her gowns) still remains with the Duchess of Norfolk deeds to be found in the Public Record Office. His son Sir James Scudamore (1568-1619) is best remembered as the Sir Scudamour in Spenser’s “Faerie Queen”. He was one of the foremost tilters before the Queen, and two suits of his armour were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York when Holme Lacy and its furnishings were sold in 1909. His eldest son John Scudamore (1601-1671) was created baronet in 1620, and Baron Dromore and Viscount Scudamore of Sligo in 1628. He was ambassador to France from 1635 to 1639 and is credited with the introduction of the Red Streak apple (to the benefit of local cider) into England, and the breed now known as Hereford cattle from the Netherlands.

He was surprised at Hereford in 1642, taken prisoner, and held at London for more than three years during the Civil War. His brother Sir Barnabus Scudamore (1609-1652) was the defender of Hereford in July 1645 until he was relieved by a force of cavalry under Charles I. The King proceeded on to Holme Lacy where he spent the night on 17 September 1645, although his host (Lord Scudamore) was imprisoned at London. It has been recently discovered that Sir Barnabas was also supposed to have been raised to the peerage, but the King was deposed before the Great Seal could be attached to the patent. After the war Lord Scudamore was estimated to have spent £50.000 on the relief of distressed clergymen and the repair of the endowment of Dore church. His grandson John, 2ndViscount Scudamore (1649-1697), inherited an estate grown to about 5000 acres and a great house with 48 hearths in 1665. He engaged Hugh May, one of the greatest architects of his day (whose work included the reconstruction of Windsor Castle for Charles II), to completely rebuild Holme Lacy in 1674 in the style of a French or Flemish chateau. His house was notable for its fine plaster ceilings (which remain) and the wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons now at Kentchurch Court. His son James, 3rdViscount Scudamore (1684-1716) married Frances, only daughter and heiress of the 4thBaron Digby.

She was patroness of literary men and Pope and Gay were frequently entertained at Holme Lacy. Their only child Frances Scudamore (1711-1750) married Charles Fitzroy (who took the surname Scudamore), a great grandson of Charles II. She had in turn an only daughter Frances, 11thDuchess of Norfolk (1750-1820), a great heiress, who went mad soon after her marriage and is said to have had a fit of hysterics immediately after the marriage vows were exchanged at St George’s, Hanover Square. After her death all of the family deeds and records (several wagon loads) were taken up to the Court of Chancery in London. The court decided Holme Lacy should go to the Sir Edwyn Francis Stanhope (father of the 9thEarl of Chesterfield) as the senior descendant of the eldest sister of the 1stViscount Scudamore. Former representative of family was Lady Patricia Scudamore-Stanhope, only child of the 12th(and last) Earl of Chesterfield, the widow of John Lucas-Scudamore of Kentchurch Court and late wife of John Phipps of Newcote, Moccas, Herefordshire. Holme Lacy, once the largest private residence in the county, has now been restored to use (after investment of several million pounds) as a fine resort hotel run by Warner Holidays Ltd. – part of the Rank Organisation who acquired a long lease in 1995. The house now boasts extensive leisure and entertainment facilities, all with the hotel complex.

(Copyright of Warren Skidmore, Akron, Ohio)

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