Nicholas de Brailsford
born about 1086, died before 1166, married un-known about 1110
Domesday Book entry for Brailsford

Brailsford Domesday book entryIn BRAILSFORD Earl Waltheof had 2 carucates of land taxable.
Land for 2 ploughs. Now in lordship 2 ploughs.
24 villagers and 3 smallholders have 5 ploughs.
A priest and 1/2 church; 1 mill, 10s 8d; meadow 11 acres;
woodland pasture 1 league long and 1 league wide.
Value before 1066, 60s; now 40s. Elfin holds it.

[Land of Henry of Ferrers]

Thus Brailsford was under the tenancy of Elfin (thought to be from the Saxon Aelfwine) and it was his son who was given the surname of ‘de Brailsford’.

Wingerworth was part of of the King’s manor of Newbold in 1086 and remained so until about 1160 when Henry II granted it to Nicholas de Brailsford, son of Elfin, Saxon landowner there. At this time it was common practice for a family to take on a surname connected to the place where they were landowners.

The Brailsfords held Wingerworth until c.1380 when the senior male line failed, afterwards a cadet branch (younger sons) remained as prosperous yeomen on estates called The Hill and Little Brailsford in neighbouring North Wingfield and in Wingerworth.

William Emes (1729-1803)

William Emes may have carried out some work on the park. He was a landscape designer and gardener active from the mid-18th to the early-19th century.
At 27 years old in 1756 Emes was the head gardener to Sir Nathaniel Curzon at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire.
In 1760 when Robert Adam was appointed to be responsible for the entire management of the grounds he left this position and moved to Bowbridge House, Mackworth. Emes then set up and developed a practice as a landscape designer concentrating mainly in the Midlands and north Wales.
He was noted particularly for his laying out of trees and water. His work was similar in style to that of Capability Brown. Features often included serpentine lakes with their ends concealed in woodland. He also introduced flower gardens adjacent to the house.

Humphrey Repton

Born – Died : 1752 – 1818

Author and landscape designer/architect, Humphrey Repton was a minor squire who had worked in business and as a farmer. In 1788, at the age of 36, he decided to take up the profession of landscape gardener. He wrote one of his famous red books for Wingerworth Hall.

The Biography as written by John Claudius Loudon (8 April 1783 – 14 December 1843) who was a Scottish botanist, garden and cemetery designer, author and garden magazine editor. It is sourced from a collection of Humphrey Repton manuscripts as written in his own handwriting and left to his children.

The manuscripts not only contain personal details of Repton’s life history but also his observations of people he met in a professional capacity. Unfortunately these are not published in Loudon’s biography.

Repton rose to the heights of his profession which was looked upon by some at the time as the occupation of gardener or nurseryman.

Born in Bury St Edmonds, the son of John Repton who for many years held the lucrative position of Collector of Excise and married Martha, daughter of a descendant of Sir Thomas Fitch created a Knight Banneret on the field of Agincourt. Humphrey had an elder sister and younger brother.

He attended initially Bury grammar school and later Norwich grammar school. His father was aware that large fortunes were made at the time by exporting Norwich manufactured goods. Thus in 1764 he was sent to a school in a small village named Workum in Holland to learn Dutch in preparation for a career as a merchant. After a less than happy twelve months he was invited to meet Mr Zachary Hope in Rotterdam who had been given money to pay Humphrey’s school expenses. He was invited to stay two days but stayed much longer with the Hope family enjoying life more than at Workum. At Mr Hope’s suggestion he was moved from the school at Workum to a school in Rotterdam where he remained for two years.

At sixteen he returned to Norwich when his family was hoped he would become familiar with the principles of trading. However he took a greater interest in the arts as poetry, music and drawing occupied most of his time. Humphrey himself states that he was blessed ‘with a poet’s feelings and a painter’s eye’ and he was indebted to his love of the art of drawing not only for the success of his profession but for more than half the enjoyments of life.

In 1773 he married Mary Clarke. As his father prudently objected to the marriage he stayed engaged for three years until 3rd May 1773 – three days after coming of age. His father gave him enough capital to start business as a general merchant. For the first few years he was reasonably successful ships lost at sea, failures in speculation and the death of both parents within a year of each other paid its toll and his business declined. At this point he retired to the country at Sustead near Aylsham where his sister lived in the house left them by their father. For five years the improvement of his garden was his favourite occupation encourage by the frequent visits of his friend Mr (later Sir) James Edward Smith.

In 1783 his friend and neighbour Mr Wyndham was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland who he accompanied briefly as confidential secretary. Briefly because Wyndham for some unexplained cause of dissatisfaction returned to England entrusting Repton to settle his private affairs. Repton remained in Ireland for another six weeks as Mr Wyndham’s representative being invited to numerous dinner and private parties.

On his return to England his finance dwindled to the point where he moved his family to a cottage in Harestreet, Essex.

By 1784 he had joined a venture to reform the mail-coach system with John Palmer, but while the scheme ultimately made Palmer’s fortune, Repton again lost money.

Four years later in 1788 with four children and no secure income he had the idea of combining his drawing skills with his limited abilities as a landscape gardener from his efforts at Sustead. Ambitious to fill the gap left by the death of Capability Brown in 1783 he developed his contacts with estate owners and received his first commission in 1788 at Catton Park. From this small beginning in his thirty year career he took on four hundred commissions and wrote several books including on garden design: Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening (1795), Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803), and Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1816). These drew on material and techniques used in the Red Books.

Humphrey Repton is buried in the churchyard at Aylsham, Norfolk.

Francis Smith of Warwick (1672-1738)

Commisioned to build the new Wingerworth Hall, he was an English master-builder and architect, much involved in the construction of country houses in the Midland counties of England.

He was the son of a bricklayer Francis Smith and along with his two brothers, Richard, and William, he was brought up in the building trade. The brothers became the leading master builders in the Midland counties of England.

Much of the town was destroyed by the great fire of September 1694 and William became one of the surveyors in charge of regulating its rebuilding. Although this was a great opportunity for Francis, and gave him much work, his career really developed through the commissions from the Midland gentry to build their country houses. Nearly all of them lay within a fifty-mile radius of their mason’s yard, the “Marble House” in Warwick.

His country houses have a recognisable pattern; in general they are three stories high, the centre is highlighted by a slight projection or recession, and the fenestration is uniform. Simple external ornamentation is in the form of keystones, architraves, aprons, quoins, and sometimes a balustraded parapet; internally there is excellent plasterwork and joinery. In the plans there was invariably a hall backed by a saloon in the centre, with a staircase set to one side.

Besides his work on country houses, he was largely responsible for Chicheley Hall (Buckinghamshire), Stoneleigh Abbey (Warwickshire), and Sutton Scarsdale (Derbyshire) stripped of its interiors in the 1920’s and is now a ruin. His one public building is The Court House in Warwick.

Robert Smythson (1535-1614)

There is some conjecture over the architect of the original Wingerworth Hall although general agreement is that it was in the Smythson style and could well have been built c.1596/1605 whilst he was alive.

An English architect of the Tudor period, acclaimed to be the most important architect of his day and a man of independent vision.

Although little is known of his background, he was an important designer of English manor houses. Examples of his work are Wollaton Hall and Longleat when moneyed families built enormous houses on vast estates to the owner’s wealth.

Smythson was born in 1535 probably in Westmorland, trained as a stonemason most likely in the Mason’s Company of London whose coat of arms appear on his funeral monument. By the 1560’s travelled England as a master mason.

He first appears in written records relating to the renovation of Longleat where he lead a group of masons. Later he designed Hardwick New Hall, Wollaton Hall and Burton Agnes Hall and renovated Wardour Castle in the 1570’s. Other Elizabethan houses have also been attributed to him on stylistic grounds. His son John Smythson was responsible for the design of Bolsover Castle.

It has been suggested by some that the first Wingerworth Hall was built by Robert Smythson about 1600 but only on the basis that it depicts the type of building he was associated with. This is not the opinion of Craven and Stanley2 who suggest that it was his son John.

Robert Smythson died at Wollaton in 1614 and is buried in the parish church there.

William Talman (1650-1719)

One account19 associates William Talman with the hall but as he died in 1719 this is unlikely to be the case.

He was an English architect and landscape designer. A pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, in 1678 he and Thomas Apprice gained the office of King’s Waiter in the Port of London (perhaps through his patron Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon). From May 1689 until William III’s death in 1702 he was Comptroller of the Royal Works, and also in 1689 William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland appointed Talman and George London as his deputies in his new role as Superintendent of the Royal Gardens. In these roles Talman worked with Wren in his rebuilding of Hampton Court Palace and its gardens and, by proposing a cheaper interior decoration scheme for the new building, won that commission over Wren’s head.

Talman’s principal work is recognised to be Chatsworth House, considered to be the first baroque private house in Britain, and he was possibly the architect of St Anne’s Church, Soho. Talman was held by many to be surly, rude and difficult to get on with. One of those who felt so was Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, who thus chose John Vanbrugh, not Talman as his architect for Castle Howard; (Vanburgh had also been Talman’s replacement as Comptroller of the Royal Works in May 1702.)