In the West Riding of Yorkshire, about four and a half miles east of the city of Leeds, stands a Jacobean-era country house which has an important link to the Regency. The house, called Temple Newsam, stands on a large estate which has a history stretching back to Roman times. A Roman road connecting Castelford with Adel ran across the property, and the mound which remains of this ancient "street" can still be seen on the north side of the estate. In the early middle ages it was on this property that the Knights Templar built a preceptory, or complex of buildings, which housed a provincial community of their order. It was this preceptory which gave Temple Newsam its name. Here the members of the community worked the land to sustain themselves and to contribute to the support of the Templars. The preceptory is now gone, as is the original manor house, built by Thomas, Baron Darcy, a nobleman beheaded by Henry VIII in 1538, when he rebelled against the dissolution of the monasteries. The property was seized by the Crown after Darcy’s death, and Henry gave it to his niece, Margaret, Countess of Lennox. Thus it became the property of the Earls of Lennox. In that same manor house was born Lord Darnley, who became the ill-fated husband of Mary Queen of Scots, and father of James I of England.
After the death of Lord Darnley, who was the eldest son of the Earl of Lennox, the property passed to his only son, King James I. In the first year of his reign in England, James granted the property to Ludovic Stewart, the second Duke of Lennox. In 1622, the Duke sold the property to Sir Arthur Ingram. In about 1630, with the exception of the part of the house which contained the room in which Lord Darnley had been born, the old manor house was mostly pulled down and rebuilt in red brick. That is the core of the Temple Newsam House which stands today. In 1661, Sir Arthur’s grandson, Henry Ingram, was created Viscount Irwin, (sometimes listed as Irvine), in the Scottish peerage, for his loyalty to King Charles I. There were nine Viscounts Irwin, the last, Charles, died in 1778, leaving five daughters, but no sons.
So, what is the Regency connection to this historic property?
The eldest daughter of Charles, ninth Viscount Irwin, and his wife, Frances Gibson Shepherd, was Isabella Anne Ingram Shepherd. She was born at Temple Newsam in 1760, and spent most of her childhood on the estate. At age sixteen, in 1776, she married Francis Seymour-Conway, the second Marquess of Hertford. He was eighteen years her senior and she was his second wife. At the age of forty-eight, this same Lady Hertford became the mistress of the Prince of Wales. In 1807, the year in which she became the Prince’s mistress, she also inherited Temple Newsam upon the death of her mother. It is known that the Prince visited her there later that year and presented her gifts for the house including chinese wallpaper and tapestries. It was also during this year, with the permission of the Prince of Wales, that the Marquess added Ingram to his family name in recognition of the fortune they received along with the Temple Newsam estate.
One can assume the Prince enjoyed his visit to Temple Newsam, and not just for the chance to spend time with his new paramour, Lady Hertford. Shortly after she was born, that lady’s father had engaged the noted landscape architect, Capability Brown, to re-design the park around the manor house. The house was situated on a height of a long slope of the valley intersecting the River Aire. The result of Brown’s work was a gently rolling landscape dotted with trees and punctuated with ponds, cascades and bridges surrounding the U-shaped red-brick manor house. Brown laid out a series of walks through the park which provided multiple pleasing views of the landscape he had designed.
The house itself had also been redecorated at about the same time Capability Brown was working on the park. Lady Hertford’s father had commissioned both Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale, a fellow Yorkshireman, to refurbish the house. Adam designed interiors in the Neo-classical style, and Chippendale designed furniture to complement Adam’s interiors, forsaking his earlier Rococo designs. Throughout their marriage, both the ninth Viscount and his wife were avid and discerning collectors of art. The picture gallery at Temple Newsam was renowned throughout England. For the Prince of Wales, a noted connoisseur of art, it must have been an added treat to admire the fine paintings in the gallery in the company of his newest ladylove.
As the Marchioness of Hertford, Temple Newsam was not Lady Hertford’s primary residence. The country seat of the Marquesses of Hertford was Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. Their London home was Hertford House on the north side of Manchester Square. Nevertheless, once she had inherited the Yorkshire estate, she and her husband did spend some time there most years. Upon the death of her husband in 1822, and the accession to the marquisate by her son, Lady Hertford, then the dowager marchioness, elected to reside most of the year at her old childhood home of Temple Newsam. She carried out more renovations to the manor house and lived there until her death in 1834. Temple Newsam then passed to her sister, Frances, who had married Vice-Admiral, William Lord Gordon, the second son of Cosmo George Gordon, third Duke of Gordon. She died in 1841, at which time the son of their deceased third sister, Elizabeth, Hugo Charles Maynell, inherited the Temple Newsam estate. His decedents eventually sold the house to the Leeds City Council.
Temple Newsam is now open to the public as a museum of fine and decorative arts. They have one of the best collections of Chippendale furniture in the world, as well as silver, porcelain and textiles. Many of the paintings owned by the Ingrams have been returned to the house, and one of the gems of that collection is the full-length portrait of Lady Hertford, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds two years after her marriage, at age eighteen. Though the house is usually promoted as the "Hampton Court of the North," it has a rich history beyond that of the Tudor–Stuart period. It was were Prinny paid court to Lady Hertford at the beginning of their liaison. It was where she grew up as a young girl, and where she spent much of her time after she was widowed. If you find yourself in the West Riding of Yorkshire, treat yourself to a visit to Temple Newsam. There you can walk the paths through the parkland where the Prince and Lady Hertford strolled and dallied, the rooms where they talked and flirted. And, since Temple Newsam is also reputed to be the most haunted house in Yorkshire, who is to say that you might not see the shades of the Prince and his ladylove arm-in-arm or tête à tête.