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The Payne Family

Wootton House about 1920 [PK1/7/13]
Wootton House about 1920 [PK1/7/13]

In 1792 Mary, eldest daughter and one of the heirs, of Sir Philip Monoux married Sir John Payne of Tempsford. The Payne family held extensive sugar plantations in Saint Kitts in the West Indies, all worked by slaves. Sir Gillies Payne, John’s father, settled in Roxton in 1750, where he fathered numerous children out of wedlock with Maria Keeling. Whether they eventually got married is the key issue which their descendents fought over in the Payne Baronetcy Case lasting from 1826 to about 1870! Sir Gillies purchased the Tempsford Estate, consisting of over a thousand acres, in 1768, paying £1,400 for it. Within five years he built Tempsford Hall.

On Sir Gillies’ death in 1801 the Bedfordshire and Saint Kitts estates were both inherited by John, Mary Monoux’s husband. His enjoyment of them was short, however, as he died in 1803 leaving two sons, Charles and Coventry. In 1812 Mary, on the death of the last of the Monoux baronets, inherited most of that family’s estates in Wootton, including Wootton House.

John and Mary’s son, Sir Charles, was a minor and was unfortunate in having a wicked uncle, Sir Peter Payne, as his trustee. Sugar prices fell dramatically and continued to do so after the emancipation of the slave workers in 1833. Graphic accounts were given of the poor condition of the Payne estate in Saint Kitts in 1803 [D197]. The Wootton Estate was in the hands of Sir Charles’ mother, being her inheritance, though she had remarried – a man named Buckworth. Sir Charles thus had little income of his own [D241-243] and in 1824 his finances were so bad that he was forced to sell the Tempsford Hall Estate, probably at a low price, as it happened during the protracted depression which followed the Napoleonic Wars. Sir Charles then went to live in France.

To add to his unscrupulous dealings with his nephew, on top of his poor handling of his inheritance, Sir Peter Payne stated that he considered that he, rather than Sir Charles, was the rightful baronet as Sir John had been born out of wedlock. The legal case hinged on whether John and Peter’s father Sir Gillies married Maria Keeling and, if so, when. The issue was never resolved and rumbled on until 1870 [D211-240 and WY223-231].

On Sir Charles’ death in 1841 the estates passed to his brother Coventry, Vicar of Hatfield Peverel [Essex]. He had, in 1820, married Henrietta Wright, the daughter of the local squire. As Wootton House was still in the hands of his mother, he continued to live in Essex.

On Sir Coventry’s death in 1849, the estate passed to his son, also called Coventry. He too married a member of the Wright family - Harriet, who, no doubt, was a cousin. His grandmother’s death in 1850 meant that he was free to move to Wootton House and, despite continuing problems with the yield from the West Indies estates [D200], the estate was reasonably prosperous [D167-174]. As the Great Agricultural Depression (1873-1896) approached, the estate began increasingly to show deficits in the 1870s. The purchase of one or two properties in the 1860s and Berry Farm in 1870, added to the estate’s mortgage indebtedness [D101]. Sir Coventry made various draft wills [D91-93] to ensure the support of his two children, Philip Monoux Payne [1858-1935] and Henrietta [died 1913]. Unfortunately none of these wills dealt with the root problem of Sir Coventry’s chronic lack of cash. In consequence the provisions of the will could not be met thus causing endless problems for his son Philip.

Sir Philip was only fifteen when he inherited the estate. On his coming of age in 1879 he faced a heavily mortgaged estate in the middle of a long period of low rents. His West Indies estates were in terminal decline. Finally, under his father’s will, he was bound to pay his sister Henrietta £500 per annum. At no point in his ownership of the estate was he ever able to pay that money. In the end she had to put up with a more realistic £60 per annum.

The estate was worth £1,800 in 1874 but by 1886 it was valued at just £1,300 [D96]. It was decided to make one last effort to see if the West Indian estates could show a profit. Sir Gillies’ old estate, called French Ground, was leased to Hon. J. H. H. Berkeley in 1886 for three years [D9]. This lease is accompanied by a very full inventory of the estates of Sir Gillies. Berkeley failed to keep the estate in good repair, thus losing Sir Philip several hundred pounds in depreciation [D194]. In 1892 Joaquim Farara of Saint Kitts agreed to buy the Payne estates for £7,500 [D14]. The Payne family links with Saint Kitts were finally broken after nearly two hundred years.

Philip’s difficulties continued into the 1890s. His problems with paying his sister’s annuity led him to write that she “must decide if she will take the balance of uncertain rents or have the property sold, which, of course, could not be now, as there would be no buyer”. In 1902 it was decided to sell the Paynes’ house in Hastings [Sussex] and invest the money on Henrietta’s behalf [D26]. Henrietta’s death in 1913 bought the issue up again and Sir Philip was forced to give a mortgage of £1,500 with 4% interest, to her son Richard Johnson Townsend [D256].

The decline in the value of land following the First World War put unbearable strains on Sir Philip’s finances and he sold the entire estate to his daughter Sybil Harriet Monoux in 1923 [D264]. She had married Harold Edward Churton Doyne-Ditmas in 1906. The purchase money was £7,776/5/8 including furniture from Wootton House and surplus stock from Bourne End Farm. Sir Philip was to use the money to pay off various debts and mortgages, including that to Townsend. After that had been done Sir Philip’s share was an annuity of £150 to enable him to pay for the rent of Bourne End Farmhouse.

Sybil Ditmas was her father’s tenant at Wootton House from 1920. She was known as Mrs. Doyne-Ditmas, her mother’s maiden name having been Doyne. In the poor financial climate of the 1920s Mrs. Doyne-Ditmas was no more successful at making the Wootton Estate profitable than her father had been. In 1927 the whole estate was put up for sale [P3/28/5]. Not all of it sold, however, as subsequent sales of the following properties shows: Wood Farm, sold in 1944 [D300]; closes forming part of Bourne End Farm sold in 1948 [D284]; part of Wood End Farm sold in 1946 [D283] and Berry Farm sold in 1949 [D285].

After leaving Wootton House in 1927 the Doyne-Ditmas family moved to Kempston Manor, which they purchased on 30th May 1928 and sold on 29th May 1935 [CCE882/9]. After this they moved to The Clock House in Kempston Rural [D297]. On her husband’s death Mrs. Doyne-Ditmas finally moved back to Wootton, to Cause End Cottage.

For information about the archives relating to the Payne family held here at Bedfordshire Archives and their interrelationship with the Monoux and Doyne-Ditmas archives, see this article.