Society visit to Catton Hall

The last event before the August break was the Society's visit to Catton Hall, Staffordshire, on Wednesday 3rd July. The number in our party was unavoidably limited to 40 but the warm summer evening created the perfect conditions for this visit.

The much modified but still elegant house stands proudly in its rural setting beside the River Trent. A description of a house standing on this site in 1625 exists; but the present house was completed in 1745 to a design by the architect James Gibbs who also designed Derby Cathedral and St Martin's in the Fields. Many subsequent alterations have been made, the most significant being the construction in 1907 of a new East Wing.

While our interest is primarily in built structures, our fascination is fired by the anecdotal information about the people who have lived in them, not only for the influence they have wrought upon the grounds and interiors but also for their frailties, foibles and connections. Anne Lutterell, the wife of Christopher Horton, who was described by Walpole as having "the most amorous eyes in the world", is portrayed among the many fine paintings within the house. She left Catton Hall on the death of her husband and subsequently secretly married the Duke of Cumberland, the brother of George III. The Duke was already married and his bigamy, and the fact that she was a commoner, resulted in the clause in the present Royal Marriage Act which forbids any member of the Royal Family to marry without the consent of the Sovereign.

The library contains much of great interest including the original manuscript of Byron's "She walks in beauty like the night ...". Here also is a chair from St Helena upon the arm of which Napoleon is said to have cur notches during his days in captivity.

We were received by the present owner Mr David Neilson, and members of his family, who briefly told us of their home and generously invited us to roam through the gracious rooms and spacious grounds. This was a delightful evening.

Ivor Mitchell
July 1991