The publication of Anya Seton's novel "Katherine" brought Kettlethorpe Hall to the attention of thousands of readers and gave it fame which it might otherwise have escaped. The novel tells the story of Katherine Swynford, a former occupant of the medieval house whose moat surrounds the present building, an undistinguished Victorian house whose modest exterior conceals relics of the house which it replaced.
The manor of Kettlethorpe was sold by John de Saint Croix to Sir Thomas Swynford. Sir Hugh Swynford, who died in 1371, married Katherine Roelt, whose sister is believed to have been the wife of Geoffrey Chaucer. Katherine became governess to the children of John of Gaunt (1340-1399), son of Edward III. Her four children by Gaunt, the Beauforts, were eventually made legitimate, but without right of succession to the throne. Gaunt's second wife died in 1394, and in 1396 he and Katherine were married in Lincoln Cathedral. Their son John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset and Marquis of Dorset, was the grandfather of Margaret Beaufort, who married Edmund Tudor and became the mother of Henry VII. Henry Beaufort, another son was Bishop of Lincoln and almost became Pope in 1418. Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland, was the grandmother of Edward IV and of Richard III. Katherine Swynford was buried (as was her daughter Joan) on the south side of the choir of Lincoln Cathedral. She had a house nearby on the site of The Priory.
The Swynfords owned Kettlethorpe Hall for some one hundred and fifty years. After them came Sir William Meryng, from whose family it passed in 1564 to John Elwes. He sold it to William Meekley in 1588, and Meekley's successor sold it to Sir Gervase Bellamy. (d.1626). Bellamy had two daughters. Mary married Gervase Sibthorp and was ancestress of the Sibthorps of Canwick and Sudbrooke. Abigail Bellamy married Charles Hall and they became the owners of Kettlethorpe Hall.
By a rather strange inheritance, which ignored the claims of the descendants of Mary Sibthorp, Kettlethorpe Hall eventually passed to the Amcotts family. They were originally of Amcotts in the Isle of Axholme; there were several branches of the family, and the Aisthorpe branch eventually established itself at Harrington Hall. Vincent Amcotts (1626-1686) married Amy Mildmay; after his death she married Thomas Hall of Kettlethorpe. Their son, Charles Hall was the next owner. His ownership lasted throughout the Civil War, when on 26th July 1645 a skirmish took place at Kettlethorpe, at which (according to Roundhead accounts) the Royalists were routed, suffering four casualties and being chased within three miles of Newark. Charles Hill was returned to the Commonwealth Parliament in 1654. The brick walls surrounding the garden at Kettlethorpe Hall date from this period, and his arms feature on one of the gate pillars, which show a talbot together with the initials CH.
Charles Hill died unmarried, and left his estate to his half brother, another Vincent Amcotts. Amcotts also died unmarried, and his sisters, as coheirs inherited his estates. They had married Edward Buckworth and Wharton Emerson of East Retford. Emerson became Wharton Emerson-Amcotts in 1777 and was created a baronet, with special remainder to William Ingilby, the second son of his daughter Elizabeth. She had been born at Harrington Hall in 1763 and was married at Kettlethorpe in 1760 to John Ingilby of Ripley Castle, Yorkshire, who was created a baronet in 1781. Lady Amcotts died in 1800.
Sir Wharton Amcotts survived until 1807, marrying a second time and having another daughter. It was said of him at his death 'His loss was deeply regretted by all his domestics, to whom he was an indulgent master. At no place was there a great plenty of every article of life; at no place was the old English hospitality kept up with great spirit than at Kettlethorpe Park.'
Kettlethorpe Hall was inherited by Elizabeth, Lady Ingilby, who assumed the name of Amcotts, and her son William inherited the Baronetcy.
The appearance of Kettlethorpe Hall at this period can be judged from the picture drawn by J. Claude Nattes in 1793. It certainly was very large, if not particularly distinguished as architecture.
Lady Ingilby-Amcotts died in 1812, and her husband died suddenly at the White Hart, Lincoln in 1815. The Kettlethorpe estate passed to their second son, William who now inherited his father's Baronetcy. Like his grandfather, he was M.P. for East Retford. In 1812 he assumed the name of Amcotts. From 1823 - 1832 Sir William was M.P. for Lincolnshire. When it was divided he represented North Lincolnshire or the Lindsey Division until the end of 1834. A man of Liberal principles, he was somewhat eccentric. His ownership of Kettlethorpe Hall was the cause of the decline of Kettlethorpe Park, as the house was known. As early as 1811 the house was to let, and it apparently suffered greatly from being unoccupied. The deer park for which Katherine Swynford had obtained a license in 1383, was broken up. The elm avenue, a well known landmark, was sold to a timber merchant, but survived because he found that the trees were not valuable enough to be felled.
Sir William Amcotts Ingilby died in 1854. He had been married twice, but had no children, and once again Kettlethorpe Hall passed through a female, for it was inherited by his sister Augusta Amcotts. She had married Robert Cracroft of Hackthorn in 1814. From 1854 he was called Robert Cracroft-Amcotts. She died in 1857, and her son, Weston Cracroft-Amcotts, inherited Kettlethorpe Hall. The house was of secondary importance now, because the family had a fine eighteenth century house at Hackthorn not far distant.
Weston Cracroft-Amcotts destroyed the dilapidated mansion - he probably had no real alternative - and built the present rather unexciting house from the medieval house, so some parts of the older house, including some interior walls, survived in the Victorian one. A large carved stone escutcheon, of the Amcotts arms, for instance, was replaced in the facade of the new house.
Weston Cracroft-Amcotts died in 1883. Kettlethorpe and Hackthorn were inherited by his eldest surviving son, Edward Weston Cracroft, who made over Kettlethorpe Hall to his brother, Major Frederick Cracroft-Amcotts. The hall once again became the owner's family home. It had had a chequered history in the previous decades - in 1856 it was occupied by a farmer; in the 1870's Edward Weston Cracroft was living in Ivy Cottage, Kettlethorpe and the Hall was occupied by a farmer called William Stafford. Another farmer occupied the house in the 1880's and early 1890's.
Major Cracroft-Amcotts was killed in a hunting accident in 1897. Like his brother, Vincent Amcotts, and his son John Cracroft-Amcotts, he could turn his hand to versification, and one of his poems, 'The Bruiser's Dream' was published in an anthology of hunting songs and poems. He and his father were described in the same volume in W.B. Danby's 'The Burton Hunt' of 1878.
'Next first of our field in years, not in pace,
The colonel of Hackthorn we'll honorably place;
He a Member once sat in the midst of our shire,
Now in favour of 'Stanhope' he's preferred to retire.
'The Captain', his son, is a good one to go,
Has a rare little chestnut that never says 'no';
When hounds go the pace, and the fences come thick,
He dwells not a moment his places to pick.
His widow lived at Kettlethorpe Hall until her death in 1936. Her son, Weston Cracroft-Amcotts had succeeded his uncle Edward Weston Cracroft of Hackthorn in 1933. Eventually the Hall was sold by the Cracroft-Amcotts family and it has had numerous occupants and owners since that sale. Judge Edward Daly-Lewis moved into the Hall in 1961; the son of a London doctor he was appointed a Circuit Judge in 1960, having previously been a judge of County Courts. He died at Kettlethorpe in 1977, and in 1981 his widow sold the Hall to Mr. C. Coulton.
In 1985 Kettlethorpe Hall passed back into the hands of a Parliamentarian, The Rt. Hon. Douglas Hogg, QC, MP., Viscount Hailsham. In the 1990's, his wife was given the title of Baroness Hogg of Kettlethorpe in recognition of her work in Downing Street. It is a curious coincidence that the Hogg arms, like the Swynfords' consist of a shield bearing three boars' heads.
Kettlethorpe Hall remains something of a history lesson in miniature, with some remarkable features preserved. As well as the medieval gatehouse, walls and some carved heads, there is a small oak-panelled room dating from the 17th century. A panelled dining room situated in the old tower dates from the early 18th century, with a fine marble fireplace from later in the same century. The drawing room has a particularly beautiful stucco ceiling from the end of the 18th century, while the library and front hall are Victorian.
Last updated : 22nd February 2005