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Estate History

Explore the history of one small corner of Britain through the eyes of one family. Start with the timeline and then explore in more depth below.

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1066 Norman Crofton

The history books will tell you that on-board the Norman ships heading to the South Coast of England in 1066 was a knight called Sir Isold de Brisco, 1st Lord of Crofton from the lands of Swabia in Bavaria, modern day Germany. The name Brisco is a habitational name, derived from a few sources. One source shows the name is derived from the Old Norse word Bretaskógr, which means, wood of the Britons. The second source shows that it may also be derived from the Old Norse words birki and stógr, which mean birch wood. It seems that the Briscos’ came to England at the time of the Norman conquests when Brisgau of Swabia provided a company of free lances that accompanied William and the conquest of England, if he was successful with the Conqueror then the family would be rewarded with land and in 11th century Europe, land equalled money.

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Medieval Crofton

Sir John Brisco (b. 1450) was born at the beginning of the Wars of the Roses with the nation heading towards a crisis that only ultimately ended in 1485. With the crown changing 7 times in just 30 years. It was one of the most turbulent and violent times in British history and the Brisco family and their kinsmen would be thrown into the thick of events on both local and national levels. Following the defeat of the Lancastrian Army under King Henry VI at the Battle of Hexham the fleeing king sought refuge at the then fortified Crofton Hall before moving on to Crackenthorpe Hall, where Sir John’s older sister, Margaret Brisco was Lady of the Manor. This is where Henry disguised himself as a gardener to avoid being captured.

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16th Century Crofton

 In 1542 when the Scottish Army led by James V of Scotland invaded England, Sir Robert Brisco was one of the men to lead the English troops on behalf of the King, Henry VIII at the Battle of Solway Moss. Alongside his kinsmen, Sir Thomas Wharton, Lord Wharton and Sir William Musgrave. Sir Thomas Wharton was a Warden of the West Marches during this period. The Battle of Solway Moss took place between the Rivers Lyne and Esk in the Parish of Arthuret, five and a half miles north of Carlisle. To the west of the battlefield is the floodplain of the River Esk. To the north is Longtown, a market town that grew up near one of the principal fords across the river. At the heart of the battlefield is Arthuret Hill with one of two steep-sided mounds, known as Brisco Hill, it is where Sir Robert led his charge on the Scots in which he was slain.


Crofton in the Civil War

Colonel. William Brisco MP and a Colonel in the English Civil War, for the parliamentarians (roundheads) and according to the History of Parliament he was one of the staunchest parliamentarians in the country. It was during William’s time as Justice of the Peace that he became known as Justice Crofton throughout the county. William sent for constables to arrest the Witches from across Cumberland and imprisoned in Carlisle Castle Jail for Witchery.

What helped William despite his clear support for the Parliamentary cause was that he did not hold office as an MP, he wasn’t in London around January 1648 to support the trial of the King as he would have been a leading candidate as a qualified legal professional. His exit from London around 1647 was a well-timed move and most probably as with many other noblemen a purposeful act to avoid the trial and to save their own estates.

Sir John Brisco, 1st Bt.HEIC

18th Century Crofton

Sir John Brisco was born in 1739 to Rev. John Brisco and Hon. Catherine Hylton. He came to the bar at Lincolns’ Inn, London. He was raised in 1782 to the title of Baronet of Crofton and from his letters with Dr Brook worked hard to try and claim through his mother the dormant title of Baron Hylton in the House of Lords although for an unknown reason he was unsuccessful, and the title eventually passed to his cousin through a female line.

Sir John was credited with his attention of his estates and farms in Cumberland claiming that he had greatly improved the appearance of this part of the county, over thirty years of his tenure as Lord of Crofton many acres of the estate had been cultivated and farmed. It is Sir John who added the 150 acre deer park on the opposite side of the man-made lake to the hall which was added by his father Rev. John Brisco. Beyond the park lay a newly planted woods added in the early years of Sir John’s reign.


19th Century Crofton

Sir John’s heir, Wastel inherited the estates including the plantations in the West Indies. Sir Wastel Brisco was born in Marylebone, London on the 17th of May 1778 and educated at Oxford University spending time at the Inner Temple & Lincolns Inn. On 27 December 1805 age 27 years Wastel succeeded to the title 2nd baronet on the death of his father John Brisco.   On 18 November 1806 Wastel married Sarah Lester Ladbrook, a marriage that was only to last a few years after scandal after scandal lead to King George IV getting involved in the case to end the marriage.

As well as the issue of adultery the tricky subject of money reared its ugly head and how much money each of them had and how much they believed they should have after the divorce.


Edwardian Crofton

The hall may have been falling under the financial pressures, but it certainly kept up appearances with grandees of the late Victorian society including the Royal Family. It was visited in the late 1890’s by Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught for a shooting weekend twice within 18 months. He must have had some sway as there was another Royal Visit when his brother the then Prince Edward, Prince of Wales visited.

Sir Hylton was losing the estate and on the 3rd February 1922 newspapers were carrying reports "Baronet missing at Sea" off Columbo 31st January . On arrival of P&O liner Narkunda Sir Hylton Ralph Brisco was missing. He seemed quiet cheerful on the journey from Bombay and remained in his cabin suffering from insomnia. The steward took milk to his cabin but could not find the Baronet. Search on board failed to reveal his whereabouts, feared he has drowned. On 9th May 1922 the High Court presumed the death of Sir Hylton. 19th June 1922 probate had been granted amounting to £78,227.

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