Sizergh Castle is situated about 3.5 miles south of Kendal in what used to be Westmorland but nowSizergh Castle (National Trust Photo Library  52555) is Cumbria. Although described as a 'castle' it does not seem to me to have been seriously fortified for a long time and has developed and been added to over the years so that today it is more a very large country house set in quite lovely gardens than it is castle. The estate has been the home of the Strickland family for more than 700 years and despite having been donated to the National Trust in 1950, one wing is still the home of Mrs Thomas Hornyold-Strickland to this day.

With the notable exception of Francis Strickland (of whom we will hear more later) the family seem to have kept out of  trouble with the  Hanoverian government during the Risings of 1715 and 1745 despite being close to the exiled James II and thus staunch Jacobites.

I think I will start with Thomas Strickland (1564-1612). Clearly the family goes back much further than that but from a Jacobite point of view Thomas will do. I should also point out that in common with many notable families the Stricklands chose from a very few Christian names so we are going to be knee deep in Thomases, Walters and Roberts before you can say, 'Confusing'!

Thomas was MP for Westmorland in the first Parliament of James I (VI). He was created Knight of the Bath and was also High Sheriff of Yorkshire. You might think all was going well but things were not as they might seem. Thomas was a gambler and blew much of the family's fortune in London. He also married a Roman Catholic woman, Margaret Curwen and that laid open the family to the recusancy penalties brought against RC families under the laws enacted against those not complying with the Established Church of England. The relatively early death of Thomas in 1612 left his wife to bring up her seven children as Catholics.

It is from the children of Thomas and Margaret that the two main branches of the Strickland family derive. Eldest son Robert, aged 12, inherited the family estates at Sizergh and Thornton Heath (in Yorkshire) whilst third son, Walter, married Anne Croft of Catterick (Yorks) and eventually inherited the Catterick lands and founded a new branch of the family.

Robert Strickland, who was knighted in 1641,  was an active supporter of Charles I as was his eldest son Thomas who fought at Edgehill in 1642 and was also knighted before being captured by the Parliamentarians in 1644. The family now paid heavy fines as a penalty of being both Royalist and Catholic and to avoid losing all his lands Sir Robert made over all his lands in Westmorland and Yorkshire to his son Sir Thomas. The fines combined with the gambling debts incurred by the first Thomas brought the family to a low ebb, a situation that was not improved when Sir Robert and Sir Thomas both joined the King again at the start of the second Civil War in 1648. All their lands were confiscated and only returned after finding the money for further huge fines.

Sir Thomas managed to somewhat restore family fortunes through his marriage to Jane Mosley by whom he had two daughters but no son. When Jane died in 1671 Sir Thomas decided to gift Sizergh to his younger brother Walter in the hopes that he would have a son to carry on the line at Sizergh. Unfortunately no sooner had this deal been done than Walter died leaving Sir Thomas in the position of having to pay heavily to regain the property that had only recently been in his possession anyway! In an attempt to produce a son himself Sir Thomas married again, this time to Winifred Trentham. Winifred fulfilled her husband's desire by giving birth to five sons but as she brought no large dowry with her to alleviate the financial problems Sir Thomas was forced to sell his Yorkshire estate at Thornton Bridge in 1682. It was at this time that Sir Thomas and Lady Strickland began to see the patronage of James, Duke of York, the brother of the King, Charles II as a way out of their financial problems.

James, Duke of York, was married for the second time to Mary of Modena who encouraged James to develop and declare his Roman Catholic leanings. (His first wife, Anne Hyde and their two daughters Mary and Anne were Protestants.) 

Gathering anti-Catholicism resulted in the search of  Sizergh for weapons but the anti-Catholic sentiment was unable to exclude James from the line of succession and after Charles II died with no legitimate issue the Duke of York was duly crowned as James II (& VII) in 1685.

Sir Thomas & Lady Strickland were not members of the Royal Household but were well connected nonetheless. Thomas' cousin Robert, (the son of Walter who founded the Catterick branch of the family) was appointed Vice Chamberlain to Queen Mary in 1685 and his wife Bridget was one of the Queen's Bedchamber Women. Robert's brother Rear Admiral Roger Strickland was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral in 1687. These connections and their Catholicism meant that Sir Thomas and Lady Winifred were brought to the attention of King James and Queen Mary. In 1688 Lady Strickland was present at the birth of the Prince of Wales, James Francis and Sir Thomas was accepted as a Privy Counselor in the same year.

However, the birth of the Prince of Wales brought to a head the unpopularity of James II and his toleration of Roman Catholicism. William of Orange invaded the country, James escaped into self-imposed exile and William and his wife Mary (James' daughter by Anne Hyde) were crowned as joint monarchs.

James set up his court in exile at St Germain-en-Laye just west of Paris and the King's supporters gathered there with him. The Stricklands came in droves. Sir Thomas and his wife arrived together with all the Catterick Stricklands. Lady Strickland's relations from Staffordshire arrived as did numerous friends and relations from Westmorland and Lancashire. Prior to his departure Sir Thomas had taken precautions against the confiscation of his property by the Williamite government by placing Sizergh in trust with two of his family servants. In 1696 many Jacobite estates were confiscated by the government but Sizergh escaped such action.

At St Germain Lady Strickland continued in her post as Under-Governess of the Prince of Wales to which duty she had been appointed on the day of the prince's birth. Unfortunately the  ill health of Sir Thomas halted Lady Strickland's career in 1692 and she retired with her husband to the  convent of Poor Clare's in Rouen. Sir Thomas died in 1694 and Lady Strickland returned to court where she was appointed Governess to James Francis until his education was entrusted to males eighteen months later. 

Sir Thomas left St. Germain-en-Laye in effect to die. I wonder why? There is a case for believing that he was not happy being under James II's roof as his career had been blighted by James' overt Catholicism and its manifestation in the Test Act of 1673. He was certainly loyal to Charles I in a general (and military) sense and to Charles II in a personal sense, but not, in my opinion, to James.

In 1695 Lady Strickland returned to England where she prepared the way for her eldest son, Walter who in 1699, when England was temporarily at peace with France, returned to Westmorland and reclaimed his inheritance. After the marriage of her son Walter to Anne Salvin Lady Strickland returned to St Germain and was appointed by the Queen as a Bed Chamber Woman and in 1701 as Keeper of the Privy Purse. She remained not just a faithful servant, but also a close friend and confidante to the Queen. It was as a result of this relationship that Lady Strickland acquired the Stuart portraits which are still at Sizergh Castle today. They have been described by Professor Corp as "the most important private collection of portraits and other relics of the exiled Stuarts in France." She wrote, on the Queen's death, that it had been her unhappy lot to have closed the eyes of Mary of Modena.

Lady Strickland, had two other sons, Roger and Thomas. Roger died at the age of 24 and Thomas disgraced his mother by supporting the Hanoverian cause after the accession of George I in 1714.  

In 1701 King James died at St Germain and James Francis was recognised as James III by much of Catholic Europe. The War of Spanish Succession broke out in 1702 and so visits between the French and English parts of the Strickland family became difficult until the end of the war in 1713. Walter then brought his children to be educated in France. His daughter was educated at the Convent of English Poor Clares at Rouen where both his parents had died. Ironically, he died whilst on a visit to see her there in 1715. He was buried with his parents.

As Walter died in 1715 the rising of 1715 would have passed the family by. It may also be that they simply wanted to have no part in the Jacobite cause. It was indeed the case that Walter went home to reclaim the Sizergh estate. His mother, Winifred Trentham, gave up all her rights to the estate except for a small annuity of £200, and she persuaded Walter’s brothers to give up their rights too so that Walter had sole ownership of all the Strickland estates. His role, in effect, was to restore the family’s fortunes and to safeguard Sizergh for future generations, which, of course, he did. 

It is at this point where the Catterick Stricklands and those at Sizergh come closer together through the marriage of two sisters. Thomas Peter (of Sizergh) married Mary Scrope in 1728 and Roger (son of Robert and Bridget of Catterick) married Catherine Scrope two years earlier. 

Roger's brother was Francis Strickland who came to Scotland with Prince Charles Edward in 1745 as one of the 'Seven Men of Moidart'. (There you are I told you we would get back to him eventually!)

The Sizergh Stricklands remained faithful to the Jacobite cause for the rest of the eighteenth century and to illustrate this today's visitors may see the bust of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in the dining room of the castle. Nevertheless the head of the family returned to England and made no attempt to join the court of James III after the de jure king moved his court in exile to Rome. 

Francis Strickland was with the Prince when the Jacobite army marched south through Kendal and again on the retreat. Despite the geographical closeness  of Sizergh, the Prince did not visit the castle nor were any men billeted there. Francis Strickland died 'of a dropsy' in Carlisle.

When Walter died in 1715 his son Thomas Peter Strickland, was only 13 and this, combined with the need to maintain Sizergh, may explain a lack of interest in the Jacobite cause when the '45 came round. As Bonnie Prince Charlie's army would have passed the door of the castle, it is extremely unlikely that no attempt at contact was made. One can only assume that it was rejected, unless Thomas Peter was away at the time.

There are numerous portraits in the castle but possibly the most interesting from a Jacobite point of view are those of Mary of Modena, Prince James Francis, and Francis Strickland and Prince James Francis as children. As well as the bust of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stricklands have a small portrait and also one of his brother Henry, Cardinal of York (and, of course, in Stuart terms, Henry IX of England and Henry I of Scotland). However, these could not have come from St. Germain-en-Laye because they were painted after the Stuart court there was abandoned. In all probability, the portraits were acquired in the twentieth century. They were certainly not put up for sale in 1896 when Walter Charles Strickland put all the portraits up for sale at Christie's in July of that year, and I am inclined to think that they were bought to compensate for the loss of the 1712 portrait of James Edward Stuart which was sold and not recovered.


(Text in italics by Mr Barry Jolly who is a National Trust volunteer at Sizergh Castle but has kindly added to this article by writing in a personal capacity) 



Courtesy NTPL Ref 52544 ourtesy NPTL Ref 52573 ©Norwyn Photographics
           Garden at Sizergh Castle                Rock Garden at Sizergh Castele James III as a child J. van Schuppen?  (Dining Room)
©Norwyn Photographics ©Norwyn Photographics courtesy of NTPL Ref No. 91732
James II after Sir Godfrey Kneller (Dining Room) Mary of Modena Alexis-Simon Belle? (Dining Room)              Queen's Room Sizergh Castle

On the right hand side of the photograph captioned "Dining Room at Sizergh Castle" there is a picture of two boys. Family legend has it that they are of James Francis Edward Stuart leading Francis Strickland (his godson) by the hand. In fact, this is quite impossible. The two boys are Thomas Peter Strickland and his younger brother Jarrard.

 Photograph acknowledgements

The photograph of the castle is courtesy of the National Trust Photo Library. Ref No. 52555. ©NTPL/Alasdair Ogilvie

The photograph of the Queen's Room at Sizergh is also courtesy of NTPL Ref No. 91732 ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Both photographs of Sizergh Castle gardens are courtesy of the NTPL Refs Reference: 52544 & 52573 and are both
 ©NTPL/Alasdair Ogilvie

National Trust Website


Images of James II (&VII), James III (&VIII) as a Child and Mary of Modena are scans from the Sizergh Castle brochure and are ©Norwyn Photographics




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