Newby Hall, Skipton: The history of the 17th century house and estate used for filming an adaptation of this classic Jane Austen novel

April 2023 marks Newby Hall’s 75th anniversary since it was first opened to the public, but the country house has actually been around for more than 330 years.

The manor sits beside the River Ure in the parish of Skelton-on-Ure in North Yorkshire and six miles south of Topcliffe Castle, where the manor of Newby was originally held. It is listed as Grade I, contains a collection of furniture and paintings and is surrounded by extensive gardens.

The house and gardens attract around 140,000 people every season from April to September. A 2007 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, starring Billie Piper, Michelle Ryan and Blake Ritson, was partly filmed at the manor and made its TV debut in the UK in 2008.

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The manor of Newby was originally held by the lords of Topcliffe Castle and was once home to Mr and Mrs Richard Compton. The house is regarded as one of England’s renowned Adam houses and an ‘exceptional example of 18th century interior decoration’ and this year the manor is hosting a replica of the Crown Jewels in honour of King Charles III’s coronation.

Newby Hall, near Ripon. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)Newby Hall, near Ripon. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)
Newby Hall, near Ripon. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)

History of Yorkshire 17th century country house Newby Hall

Following the death of Sir John Crosland in 1670, Sir Edward Blackett, an MP for the constituency of Ripon, bought the manor of Newby from the Crosland family in the 1690s to Sir Edward Blackett.

The existing manor house was demolished and in 1697 he built a new mansion, supposedly with the assistance of Sir Christopher Wren. Traveller and writer, Celia Fiennes, described the country house as ‘the finest house I saw in Yorkshire’ when she visited that year.

Sir Blackett was succeeded as owner of the manor by his son Edward in 1718, who was succeeded by his nephew, also called Edward. His nephew sold the estate to Richard Elcock in 1748 to whose young son William Weddell it passed in 1762.

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William Weddell was the MP for Malton and benefited from his great-uncle’s South Sea Company fortune and improved and extended the house during the 1760s. The interior was remodelled to designs of several architects including John Carr and Robert Adam.

William’s collection of Roman antiques were housed in the building which he had bought back from Italy during 1764-1765. In 1792, Robert Adam and William died and the estate was left to Thomas Philip Robinson, Lord Grantham, who later changed his name to Thomas Weddell and was later known as Thomas de Grey, 2nd Earl de Grey. His nephew, George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon, took over his titles when he died in 1859, but Newby Hall was passed on to his daughter, Lady Mary Gertrude Robinson, who married Henry Vyner.

She commissioned William Burges to build the Church of Christ the Consoler in the grounds in 1871-1876 as a memorial to her son, who was killed by bandits in Greece in 1870. An equestrian statue brought to England by the Vyners and erected in London after the 1660 Restoration of the Monarchy, modified to depict Charles II trampling Cromwell, was re-erected at Newby in 1883.

Over the next century the manor had been passed down further across generations of Vyners and Comptons, who currently own the estate and are matrilineal descendants of William Weddell.

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The Compton family restored the property, including the gardens which have extensive herbaceous borders and woodland walks and were developed in their present state by Major Edward Compton, who took over Newby in 1921.

It wasn’t until 1948 that Newby Hall was opened to the public and has been a tourist attraction ever since.

In 1973, a miniature railway was constructed and was enlarged in 1985 and ran along the bank of the river. A train is pulled by a Battison-built model of the Royal Scot (6100) on Sundays and bank holidays.

The hall was used as the location for Hundreds Hall in the 2018 film The Little Stranger starring Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson and Will Poulter and was also featured on an episode of An American Aristocrat’s Guide to Great Estates on the Smithsonian Channel and Amazon Prime Video, which initially aired in 2020.

Newby Hall also appeared as the venue of two episodes of BBC One’s Antiques Roadshow filmed in 2020 and aired in January and April 2021.

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