The Mitford Family

Take from 'The Bowkers of Tharfield' by Ivan & Raymond Mitford-Barberton:
The Mitfords of Mitford trace their ancestry back to those remote times when the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria was a power in the land; when Oswald, Edwin and Cuthbert were not merely names, but living personages, asserting their power and influence in Church and State and social life.  Northumberland is still favoured with not a few families which, like the Mitfords, lay claim to this honourable distinction.  The Ridleys, formerly of Willimoteswick, now of Blagdon, the Middletons of Belsay, the Swinburnes of Capheaton, the Crasters of Craster, and probably a few others still represented in the country, though not directly connected with their ancestral properties, are distinguished for their descent form the old Anglian Nobility, who, having "come in" hundreds of years before "the Normans", brought with them, fostered and developed, the fundamental principles of those free institutions which made and have maintained England's greatness.
We can hardly say that the English Mitfords of Mitford were ousted by the Norman family of Bertram.  They seem to have lived side by side contentedly enough, the Mitfords in their ancient manor-house, the Bertrams in their new castle.
Colonel William Mitford, the Greek historian, wrote:
'The conjecture seems warranted by probability, that when Sigel, or Sybil, daughter of John, Lord of Mitford, under Edward the Confessor, married Roger Bertram, and the estate of Mitford was in his favour, after the Norman fashion, erected into a barony, Matthew, younger brother of John, held these lands as a freehold tenant under his nephew, and so transmitted to his posterity, by whom they are yet held.'
..........Everything points to the conclusion that Robert had prepared the Manor House, and garnished it well for the reception of his bride, Philadelphia Wharton.  He was buried at Mitford, June 28th, 1674.  He had a family of six sons and five daughters.  From his eldest son, Humphrey, is descended the present owner of Mitford Castle and estates ...From his third son, John, sprang John Mitford first Lord Redesdale, and the Mitfords of Exbury....
'One other point in this sketch requires explanation-the occurrence of Osbaldeston in the name of the present (1884) owner.  Robert Mitford of Mitford Castle, Esq., who was High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1723, married Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Osbaldeston of Humanby, Yorkshire.  Through this marriage the Hunmanby estates came into possession of the late Bertram Mitford, Esq., who by Royal Letters Patent, obtained permission to use the name of Osbaldeston with and in addition to that of Mitford.'
A grandson of Robert Mitford who married Mary Osbaldeston was John Mitford of Mitford Castle and Hunmanby Hall, born in 1749.  He had a family of six, three sons and three daughters.  From the eldest son, Robert, born in 1778, is descended the present owner of Mitford Castle.  From Admiral John, the second son, born in 1783, is sprung the present Lord Amherst of Hackney.  Of the daughters Anna Maria, the eldest, is the ancestress of all the Bowkers of South Africa mention in this book.  On the 8th March 1800, at Mitford Church, she married Miles Bowker of Deckhams Hall, Gateshead, county Durham, and twenty years later she and her husband and their large family emigrated to the Cape of Good Hope.


Ruins of Mitford Castle

The land around Mitford was originally owned prior to the Norman Conquest by Sir John of Mitford whose name was derived from the siteís location between two fords over the rivers Font and Wansbeck.

After 1066 Sir Johnís daughter, Sybilla, was married to Richard Bertram, son of the Seigneur of Dignain in Normandy. King William endowed Bertram with considerable land holdings and as a result a number of churches, including Brinkburn Priory and Newminster Abbey, were built by the family together with Mitford Church, which dates from 1135.

Originally the home of the Barons of Mitford, built soon after their move to the Mitford are, and the only five sided keep in England.  Mitford Castle itself was known to have existed by 1138 and this was constructed on the site of an Anglo Saxon fort. The Castle has the only 5 sided keep in England but was subsequently laid waste by King Johnís Flemish troops in 1215 and by 1327 was in ruins.

The Bertram and Mitford families merged together but lived in times of continuing troubles pray not only to the marauding Scots but also the whims of the Kings of England the familyís landed estates were subject to attack and confiscation. It was not until after the restoration of Charles II that the majority of the lands, which previously had belonged to the family, were returned to Robert Mitford, an enthusiastic royalist. This completed the task of his ancestors over the preceding three centuries in consolidating the familyís properties.


Ruins of Mitford Manor House

A more settled period in the family history ensued and Bertram Mitford succeeded to the Hunmanby and Osbaldeston estates in Yorkshire in 1835. Subsequently taking the name of Osbaldeston in addition to and before the Mitford name, Bertram was responsible for pulling down the Manor House, leaving the Pele Tower intact and constructing the present Hall in 1828.

The family line at Mitford continued up until 1990ís although other members of the family established themselves elsewhere and these include the Exbury branch, headed by Lord Redesdale, from where the famous Mitford sisters hailed and Anna Maria Mitford who married Miles Bowker and immigrated to South Africa in 1820.

The Shepherd family purchased the Estate from the Mitford family in 1993 and a large scale programme of restoration and modernisation has been in progress throughout the Estate ever since.

In 2004 and 2005 the Shepherd family in partnership with English Heritage have begun the restoration and preservation of the Mitford Castle ruins.