The Essex County Record Office holds a set of papers indexed as ‘The Little Coates Estate 1759-1938’. I finally got down to Chelmsford last week to read them.
I already knew that the estate was held at the beginning of the period by a Robert Newton from Sixhills, Lincolnshire. North East Lincolnshire’s archive holds a large and beautiful mid-eighteenth century map of the whole parish which shows each field colour coded to indicate the surname of each of his tenants (Codd & Marshall, Jackson, Marshall, Neville and Sheardown – the earliest surviving gravestones in the churchyard from fifty or so years later are for Nevilles and Sheardowns).
The field names are evocative. In the north, Far Marsh, Little Marsh and Great Marsh lie just west of what is still today called the West Marsh of the neighbouring parish of Grimsby. In the south, West Platt, Middle Platt and East Platt lie just east of what is still today called Cottagers Plot (but was still Cottagers Plat in early twentieth century OS maps) in the neighbouring parish of Laceby. I once tried to copy them across onto a contemporary street map.
I also already knew that the estate was held at the end of the period by two successive Sir Walter Gilbeys of Elsenham Hall, Essex - which is obviously why the papers have ended up in the Essex Record Office rather than at the Lincolnshire one. Again, it is in North East Lincolnshire’s own archive that I have seen one of many surviving copies of the map of the Estate divided up into lots and offered for auction in 1927.
My wildest hope was that the Essex set of papers would provide a trail of ownership and sale showing clearly how the Manor and Estate passed from the Hildyards (who held it in Tudor times) directly or through others to the Newtons, and then on from them through others (I knew of some Tennyson and Yarborough involvement and then of Angerstein ownership through most of the nineteenth century) to the Gilbeys.
It doesn’t. It contains just two small clusters of papers from 1758-60 and then some further sale papers beginning 1898, with nothing in between.
First, there appears to have been some financial obligation on the owner of Little Coates to make a payments to the owner of neighbouring Laceby (on both 1st May and Michaelmas Day each year). . I think the spelling 'Warnal Rent' is clear at the head of this post in the picture of a scrap of paper (it may need clicking on to enlarge it). I’d dearly like to know what that is; I assumed putting the term into a search engine would reveal all, but it doesn’t.
The signature is that of twenty-five year old Sir Cecil Wray of Fillingham who seems to have been enforcing this in 1758 to cover a period which goes back to a short while before his father’s death, so he might have been putting neglected pieces of business in order; he spells Michaelmas as Micklemas, which is as it is pronounced.
There are two further annual receipts (4th July 1759 and 9th May 1760) and then a major legal document dated 10th May 1760 (the day after the final payment) in which Wray releases Newton from the obligation in return for a payment of £25 5/10.
Secondly, at about the same time (30th April 1759), there is what is largely an exchange of land between Newton and John Sutton of Carleton, Nottinghamshire, who I take to be a member of the Sutton family which has consistently owned (much of) Great Coates since the seventeenth century.
Sutton takes some equally evocatively named Great Coates fields (Millholme, Mr Grantham’s field, Edward Gilliat’s Field, Bibon Field, Old Mill Causeway and North East Carr), which presumably consolidated his holding west of the Freshney. These are farmed by Edward Phillipson (again, the surname occurs on an early surviving 1816 gravestone at St Nicolas’) or his under tenants.
Newton gets fields called The Ings and The Carr in Little Coates (West Ings and a number of Carrs are both names on the map), which presumably consolidated his holding east of the Freshney. He also gets (or perhaps Sutton is simply surrendering) two ‘colt gates’ in the Great Marsh, which is defined as the right to pasture two colts there between 12th May and 12th August.
Most tantalising to me is that this is said to ‘release’ (that is, I take it, end any rights or obligations) not only Newton but also Christopher Hildyard, late of Kelstern, Lincolnshire, deceased. This can only mean that Newton’s title to the land has come to him from the Hildyards - whether by purchase or inheritance I still do not know.
Anyway, sixty-six years later, in 1825, I already knew that the Executors of the fabulously rich Russian born London banker and art collector John Julius Angerstein invested by buying the estate. I haven’t yet pinned down from whom they did so (as I have said, there are both Tennyson and Yarborough references; the Tennysons might just have inherited rather than purchased from the Newtons, and Yarborough owned the neighbouring Grimsby land).
The Angersteins held it for seventy-two years until John Julius’s grandson William died in 1897, and this is where the papers resume. The Gilbey purchase the following year was from the Norwich Union, the documentation saying that William Angerstein’s life interest had fallen in on his death. What this means is that John Julius’s family had mortgaged away the Little Coates estate (as well as most of the rest of his vast inheritance - I’ve found references to Norwich Union also taking possession of the family home at Weeting Hall in Norfolk) which must have been quite a spending achievement.
The few papers here are in the most part sales of land, in particular the sites of what will be Little Coates Primary School and of Dixon’s Paper Mill. At this time Gilbey was developing all the housing next to these sites, as the Gilbey Road, Elsenham Road and other Essex related road names in the immediate area give away.
All this property stands today on the old Marsh fields of Little Coates and are now assumed by most people (including those who moved the Little Coates First World War Memorial from next to the school to the grounds of the West Marsh Community Centre) simply to be part of the West Marsh of Grimsby.
One of the transfers of land was to extend the churchyard, and the second of the pictures at the top of this post comes from the relevant document. My next task might be to try to map this against the present churchyard. My estimate is that at least the north-eastern corner of the church built 1913-15 stands on a bit of the Gilbey-given land outside the original churchyard.
The churchyard has, of course, twice been extended further, first on the south (what was the Mountain family Private Burial Ground) and then on the north (in the 1940s). And the line of the road is that of the present lay-by orphaned by the straightening of Great Coates Road in the 1950s.
To complete the picture, at first the land south of the Haven remained rural. In the 1920s, Little Coates as a Civil Parish was incorporated into the Borough of Grimsby and some land was sold (principally to Grimsby Golf Club) until the second younger Sir Walter Gilbey, as I have already mentioned, divided the rest of the Estate into lots and auctioned these off.