Mark’s History: The murderous past of Calverley Old Hall

15 December 2017

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In Leeds you are still able to find some old Manor Houses dating back hundreds of years. The one in Calverley has a more murderous history than most, writes MARK STEVENSON.

Calverley Old Hall, which dates back to the 14th century and was home to the Calverley family. Walter Calverley inherited Calverley Hall when his father died when he was young. Among some of the many lands he inherited were parts of Farsley and Seacroft.

After his father’s death a relative Lord Cobham became Calverley’s guardian. He was sent to be educated at Cambridge in 1579 but soon returned home.

Walter became engaged to the daughter of a neighbour. This did not go well with his guardian Lord Cobham, and on a visit to London Walter was forced to break off his engagement and made to marry Philippa, daughter of Sir John Brooke, son of George, Lord Cobham.

Murderous past: Calverley Old Hall. Photo: Mark Stevenson

This proved to be Walter’s ruin, he went back to Calverley Hall with his wife, whom he detested, and took to drinking and gambling; he soon lost all his money to this, mortgaged all his lands, and spent his wife’s dowry.

In April 1605 a relative of Walters was arrested for a debt that Walter was responsible for. This seemed to tip him over the edge as he straightway rushed at his two eldest children, William and Walter, the former four years old and the latter 18 months, and killed them both. He stabbed his wife, who survived.

He then rode to a neighbouring village where a third infant son, Henry, was with his wet nurse, intent on murdering him as well, but he was stopped and taken before Sir John Savile, a magistrate, who committed him to prison at Wakefield.

At his trail in York he declined to enter a plea and was therefore pressed to death in York Castle. His refusal to enter a plea meant his estates went to his surviving son Henry and were not seized by the crown which, if found guilty, they would have been.

The Dispatch featured the bid to revitalise the medieval manor house back in June.

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