The Tennyson Family in Lincolnshire
The Tennyson family originated in the Holderness area of East Yorkshire. The connection with Lincolnshire began when the young George – who was to become grandfather of Alfred, Charles, Frederick and all the rest – at the age of 23, was admitted as an attorney in the office of a Mr. Marris at Barton on Humber. The following year he started his own law practice in Market Rasen, and thus began the family’s long association with the county.
On 22nd June 1775 George married Mary Turner of Caistor House, Caistor. The fine house with its Ionic portico still stands in the Market Place. Many years later, Mary was to tell Alfred of the time when she and George were courting on the steps outside when a large piece of stone fell from the parapet, narrowly missing them. She told him “It was a special Providence, my dear, but for that, where would you have been?”
The couple settled in Market Rasen. It seems that until 1779 they lived in a house in Queen Street (where No’s. 17-23 are now, on the corner of Waterloo Street), after which they moved to a new house next to the Vicarage. Mary did not care much for Market Rasen, finding it dull and unattractive in comparison with Caistor. George was often away on business and she was lonely. She wrote to her mother at Caistor about once a week from the time of her marriage until her mother’s death in 1804. Many of these letters have survived and give a vivid picture of the family and are an excellent social history of life in a small country town at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Four children were born to George and Mary:
Their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1776. As a child she was known as ‘Bessy’. In spite of a childhood full of all manner of illnesses, she grew up to be what has been described as the most “normal” member of the family. She married Matthew Russell, son of a wealthy Durham coal mine owner, at St. Mary Magdalene church, Lincoln, and they lived at Brancepeth Castle, County Durham. Two children were born to them, William and Emma Maria. Matthew is referred to in the family as ‘The Major’, as at the time he and Elizabeth met, he was serving in the Militia.
Mary, the second child, born in 1777, was sent to Caistor to be brought up by her grandmother. Apparently this practice of ‘boarding out’ of children in those days was not uncommon. She grew up to be an obsessively religious character, a great trial to her relatives, but with a strong sense of duty. In 1811 she married John Bourne, a non-conformist squire of Dalby, not far from Somersby.
George Clayton, the elder son, who was to become rector of Somersby and Bag Enderby and father of Alfred and his 10 brothers and sisters, was born in 1778. The story of George and the family at Somersby is told elsewhere, but his early life is not as readily familiar. As a child he was sent away to live with his grandfather, Michael Tennyson, in Holderness. It is not surprising that relations between the children who were sent away to be brought up and their parents were not easy. In May 1785 when Michael brought young George to Market Rasen for a visit Mary wrote “I thank God I am well – if I was otherwise I should be almost ready to run away at this time for our house is full of noise and distraction since George and his grandfather came. I think I never saw a child so rude and ungovernable”. He was educated at school in York, and St. John’s College, Cambridge and was ordained priest on 19 December 1802. He married Elizabeth Fytche of Louth in 1805 and was appointed to the livings of Grimsby, Somersby and Bag Enderby which had been secured for him by his father. He was beset by ill-health, possibly epilepsy, and addiction, a situation which was exacerbated by his father’s preference for his younger brother, Charles.
In about 1791 George and Mary moved to a part of Deloraine Court, a house belonging to the Dean and Chapter at Lincoln. The Market Rasen house was kept and George describes himself on documents as ‘of the Close Lincoln and of Market Rasen’. It was supposed that they would be able to mix more easily in county society when living there and possibly find it easier to get Elizabeth married off to a suitable young man. The move was not a success, however. In a letter to her grandmother, Mary Turner, Elizabeth writes “You will be surprised to hear that my Father has sold his House to Mr Burton for £1500 & we quit next May day, we shall be at Grimsby for some time which we are all glad of as it is much nearer you, my Father thinks of building a House from the old foundations at Tealby, we none of us regret quitting Lincoln every body agreeable seems tired of the place & talk of leaving…we must own that the Generality of Lincoln people are not pleasant”.
‘Tealby’ is very significant. In 1801 the family moved to the house, then known as Tealby Lodge, on the Beacons Estate there. A few years later the name was changed to ‘Bayons Manor’ at the suggestion of Charles, the youngest child and second son. Charles, was born in 1784, some years after the others. He was brought up at home and his father and mother doted on him. Like his elder brother he was educated at schools in York and St. John’s College, Cambridge, and was called to the bar in about 1806. In 1808 he married Frances Hutton of Gate Burton near Gainsborough, and they lived first at Caenby Hall, then in London at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and later in Park Street, Westminster. Frances brought with her a considerable fortune. The first of their seven children, George Hildyard Tennyson, was born in 1809. Charles became an MP in 1818, firstly for Grimsby. Terence Leach writes “He was hard working and had a fine voice… He was progressive and independent, too much so for success in the Commons, and sat for thirty three years in ten successive parliaments”. Mary, his mother, died in 1825, and in 1833 ‘Old’ George moved to nearby Usselby thus enabling Charles and Frances to take over Bayons.
Charles’s and Frances’s family life, however, was not happy and eventually they lived apart. Charles took a mistress, Miss Thornhill, a friend of his sister Elizabeth, whom he had met in 1816. For twenty-two years she wrote to him as ‘Dearest Beauty’. His expenditure on Bayons Manor, the vast ‘medieval castle’ which he built on the site of the original Tealby Lodge, and the change of name to ‘Tennyson D’Eyncourt’ never brought the hoped for recognition. Unfortunately, the house did not exist long enough to provide evidence of the family’s alleged antiquity and descent.
Mary died in 1825 at the age of 72. ‘Old’ George survived her by ten years. In 1833 he moved to Usselby thus enabling Charles and Frances to take over Bayons Manor. When he died in 1835, his body was taken back in state to Tealby: ‘As his body passed through Market Rasen, sixty men on horseback joined the procession to follow to Tealby. That day all the windows in Rasen were closed in respect’.
Alfred Tenyson’s older brother Charles changed his name to Turner on inheriting the estate of his great-uncle, the Reverend Samuel Turner, at Caistor and Grasby, and became the much loved Vicar of Grasby. On 24 May 1836, he married Louisa Sellwood of Horncastle, the younger sister of Alfred’s future wife, Emily.
George Clayton Tennyson died in 1831 at Somersby and is buried there. His father stated that ‘the cost and bustle’ for a funeral at Tealby would be too much.
The Somersby Tennysons left Lincolnshire in 1837 for High Beech in Epping Forest. The Tennyson D’Eyncourt family remained in Tealby until well into the 20th century. Sadly, Bayons Manor fell into decay after the Second World War and was blown up in the 1960s. Traces of it are still visible.