Papers of the Bishop Burton Estates of the Gee and Hall-Watt Families

Scope and Content

Most estate papers relate to land at Bishop Burton and the immediate surrounds of Cherry Burton and Walkington though there are a few 19th century papers from John Lockwood's estates in Ottringham and papers of the Watt family relating to their land at Speke in Lancashire and Georges Plain in Jamaica (correspondence and related accounts dated 1849-1861).

The estate papers in U DDGE begin with: Beverley (1752-1827) including the marriage settlement of Charles Wray and Susannah Morton (1757) and abstracts of title for a parcel of land in Flemingate; Beverley Parks (1841-1842) being an abstract of title and papers relating to the sale of an estate. The largest section of estate papers is that of Bishop Burton (1552-1897). It includes 18th century surrenders and admissions in the manorial court; the enclosure award plan of 1771 by David Tate; 19th century tenancy agreements and leases; 17th century copies and extracts of the conveyance at Reformation of the manor from the Archbishop of York to the Crown and the 1552 letters patent granting the manor to John, Duke of Northumberland (along with the manors of Walkington and Cherry Burton); the 17th century purchase, title and related papers of William Gee (d.1612) and his family; 17th century papers related to Killingwoldgraves Hospital; papers about the marriage settlement of William Gee junior and Elizabeth Hotham 1670; a pedigree of the Gee family dated 1775; the marriage settlements of Robert Richardson and Sarah Johnson (1664), William Stephenson and Anne Wilkinson (1724), James Gee and Constantia Moyser (1727), William Watson and Elizabeth Ross (1764); the wills of Jane Torre (1751), James Gee (1758), Catherine Wilberforce (1761), Matthew Remington (1773), Toby Hodson (1706), William Gee (1718), Elizabeth Hardcastle (1828), Ann Hardcastle (1852), John Burks (1872); the Enclosure Act of 1767 and extracts from the awards; 18th century sale papers of the Bethell family; certificates of baptisms, burials and marriages in the Watson family 1759-1845; some 19th century papers of the Ellerker family. For the manor of Bishop Burton there are court rolls and court papers such as verdicts (1667-1931) as a well as a 17th century volume of surveys and assessments for sewers at Ottringham. U DDGE also contains estate papers for Walkington (1775-1840) including an original bundle relating to an estate called Littlewood and in this are several papers of John Lockwood and family including his marriage settlement to Sarah Dickens (1803) and their wills (1823 and 1827 respectively). A section on 'various townships' (1591-1861) includes a schedule of the title of Richard Watt 1591-1870; the marriage settlements of William Gee and Rachel Parker (1647), William Gee and Elizabeth Ellerker (1685), William Gee and Elizabeth Hotham (1664), Roger Gee and Caroline Warton (1762), William Gee and Philippa Hotham (1725); some papers of the Crompton family; the wills of William Gee (1611) and William Gee (1743); the grant to Dame Mary Gee of the wardship of her son John Gee (1612); the grant to John Hotham of the wardship of William Gee (1627); the tithe rental of Bishop Burton payable to William Bethell (1768). There is also a bundle of correspondence relating to the Georges Plain estate in Jamaica of Richard Watt with related accounts dated 1849-1861.

U DDGE2 largely comprises further estate papers for Bishop Burton (1194-1912) and these include inventories and valuations of 1912; an original bundle relating to the rectory estate including the oldest document in the papers being a grant of 1194 of the estate by Pope Celestine III and 18th and 19th century leases; papers relating to enclosure including the bill and awards; the wills of Richard Page (1729), John Tong (1775), William Spence (1787), Robert Spence (1796), Edward Autherson (1746), Edward Johnson (1728), John Blyth (1754), Lawrence Stephenson (1808), Simon Gregson (1806), John Gregson (1816), Richard Pickering (1777), William Chaplin (1801), Thomas Hopper (1777), Timothy Jefferson (1778), John Danson (1737), Ellin Lee (1777), John Lee (1801), Sarah Anderson (1765), Ann Luck (1780), Thomas Swaby (1792), Mary Swaby (1808), Lawson Rosse (1781); the birth certificate of Jane Gregson Pettingell; the marriage settlement of Thomas Rosse and Anne Dry (1721); the affadavit of William Heseltine about the drowning of Robert Kemp (1835); the burial certificate of John Cocksworth (1825).

Remaining sections in U DDGE2 are as follows: Cherry Burton (1823-1830) including the enclosure act; North Newbald (1653-1847) including surrenders and admissions in the manorial court and the burial certificates of Burton Hall (1787), Sarah Hall (1815) and Mancklin Holland (1839); Ottringham (1786-1854) including a copy of the terrier of the curacy (1786) and the rent roll 1809-1854; Lancashire (1799-1911) being papers about the manor of Speke and Speke Hall including plans and the rental of the Moston estate 1903-1911; accounts (1802-1920) including farming account books, estate account books and accounts with ships to Jamaica 1808-1809; legal (1804-1806, 1923) including the will of Richard Watt (1804) and papers related to the Beverley Race Company; settlements (1784-1824) including the marriage settlement of Richard Watt and Sarah Greenup (1784); 'various' (1783-1837) including schedules of deeds for Richard Watt for Bishop Burton and Speke in Lancashire, various other papers of Richard Watt including his will (1800) and the birth and baptism certificates of his son William and the royal licence of the natural children of Francis Watt to take his name (1832).

U DDGE3 is a small deposit comprising the rentals and cash accounts of the Bishop Burton estate 1911-1919

Administrative / Biographical History

Bishop Burton is about 4 kilometres west of Beverley on the main York road at the foot of the East Yorkshire wolds. It is an estate village dating largely from the lordship of the Hall-Watt family from the late eighteenth century. Before the Reformation the manor had been owned by the Archbishop of York. After reversion to the Crown in 1542 it was sold a decade later to John Dudley, Duke of Northunberland who forfeited it a year later on attainder. It then went through leasing and sale before being bought by the Crompton family, who in turn sold it to William Gee (d.1612) in 1603. It subsequently descended in the Gee family until being bought by Richard Watt in 1783 (Allison, History of Yorkshire East Riding, iv, pp.3-4).

The Gee family came from Rothley in Leicestershire. Henry Gee of Rothley was the common ancestor of a senior branch of the family who remained in Rothley and the father of William Gee who first moved to Hull as a master mariner. William Gee became a Merchant of the Staple and acquired great wealth through this means and through public office. He was sheriff of Hull in 1560 and mayor in 1562, 1573 and 1582. He was the benefactor of Hull Grammar School, donating £80 and 20,000 bricks in 1583 for its rebuilding, as well as founding a hospital for ten poor women and providing the town with a gold chain to be worn by mayoresses. He was married twice, the second time to Elizabeth Jobson, who died in 1599 and by whom he had five children. His will is dated 1600 (Wildridge, Old and New Hull, pp.41, 171-2; Foster, Pedigrees, iii; English, The great landowners of East Yorkshire, p.25).

The eldest son, William Gee (b. circa 1562), was secretary of the Council of the North and Keeper of the Signet from 1604. He purchased the Bishop Burton estate in 1603 and built on it a hall later known as the Low Hall and pulled down to build the Victorian High Hall by the Hall-Watt family in 1874. A sketch of the Jacobean house is in Samuel Buck's notebooks. William Gee married first Thomasine, daughter of Mathew Hutton. They had one son and two daughters before Thomasine died aged 29 years in 1599. The son predeceased his father and on the family monument in York Minster built by William Gee's second wife none of these children was depicted suggesting that they all died young. William Gee's second wife was Mary Crompton, daughter of one of the queen's auditors. There were six children by the second marriage, the eldest of whom was John Gee (b.1603). William Gee died in early 1612 at the age of only 50 and his wife was forced to buy the wardship of his eldest son for £750 to maintain some family control over the estates (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; English, The great landowners of East Yorkshire, p.25; Pevsner & Neave, York and the East Riding, pp.147, 330; U DDHE/6/19).

John Gee married Frances, daughter of Sir John Hotham, and they had only one child, William (b.1625), before John Gee died prematurely in 1627. William Gee married first Rachel Parker and by her had one son, William Gee (b.1648), before she died aged only 18 in early 1650. He married secondly Mary Spencer and by her had two sons and a daughter. The elder son, Richard Gee (b.circa 1657), inherited through his mother lands in Orpington, Kent. William Gee died in 1678; his widow in 1702. The younger William Gee was MP for Hull and Beverley and a supporter of William of Orange and also married twice; first, to Elizabeth Hotham by whom he had 11 children and, second, Elizabeth Cracroft by whom he had 3 more children. Bishop Burton was inherited on his death in 1718 by his eldest son, Thomas Gee (b.1673), but when he died in 1750 he was succeeded by his grandson, Roger Gee (b.circa 1737), son of his youngest child, William Gee (d.1745). The Gee family had slowly accumulated debts and Roger Gee was the last member of the family to own the manor and hall of Bishop Burton. It was held in trusteeship for five years before sale in 1783. Descendants remained in the East Riding, intermarrying with other local gentry family (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; English, The great landowners of East Yorkshire, p.25; Borland and Dunning, Bishop Burton, pp.98,102).

The estate was bought by Richard Watt (b.1751), who was born in Standish in Lancashire. Richard Watt was a man of acquired wealth, starting life as a coach driver before joining a merchant ship bound for the West Indies. There he bought a plantation (Georges Plain) and exploited slave labour to produce rum and sugar. He returned a successful merchant and shipowner. Twelve years after buying Bishop Burton he also purchased Speke Hall in Lancashire. He probably never lived at Bishop Burton but the village grew up as an estate development from the time of his tenure. When he died in 1798 it was inherited by his nephew, Richard Watt (d.1812) and then his grandnephew, also Richard Watt (1786-1855). The latter was a horse breeder who had four winners of the St Leger. He divided his estates between his two sons. The elder, also Richard Watt, had upset his father by marrying a housemaid but was given Speke Hall; this estate was held by the senior branch of the family until 1921. Bishop Burton was given to his younger son, Francis Watt, who was high sheriff of Yorkshire in 1865. Francis Watt died in 1870 and the estate passed to his brother, William Watt (b.1818) who was building a new hall on his death in 1874. The house lay unoccupied and the succession unsettled until 1886 when it all passed to Ernest Richard Bradley Hall-Watt (b.1865), who was William Watt's great-nephew. He was high sheriff in 1896 and owned nearly 5000 acres in and around Bishop Burton. He was an early motoring enthusiast and died in a car accident in 1908 when he was succeeded by his son, Richard Hall-Watt (b.1898), who was killed on active service in 1917. Richard Hall-Watt was succeeded by his brother, Alverey Digby Hall-Watt (1901-1961), who sold the estate in 1930. It has since been sold to the council and the Victorian High Hall has seen use as an agricultural college which is now independent (Borland and Dunning, Bishop Burton, pp.98-9,102, 107-113; Allison, History of Yorkshire East Riding, iv, pp.3-4; Pevsner & Neave, York and the East Riding, p.330).

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Other Finding Aids

Entry in Landed family and estate archives subject guide

Custodial History

Deposited by Messrs. Crust, Todd and Mills, on 1 October 1964 [U DDGE], 28 February 1981 [U DDGE2] and in June 1984 [U DDGE3]. Donated via Donald Carrick, on the authority of Sandersons Solicitors (successor to Crust, Todd and Mills), June 1999.

Related Material

Lease for a year: William Gee of Beverley [U DRA/984]

From the Papers of the Burton Family [U DDCB/4/17, 91-93, 253-260; U DDCB/5/13; U DDCB/12]

From the Papers of Crust Todd and Mills Solicitors [U DDCV/19; U DDCV/204/B1; U DDCV(2)/62/23]

From the Papers of the Duesbery Family of Beverley [U DDDU/23/15]

From the Kirk Ella Estate Papers [U DDKE/5/8, 9, 10]

From Papers relating to the East Riding of Yorkshire collected by Sir Clive Milnes-Coates of Helperby Hall [U DDMC/108/36]

From the Papers of the Sykes Family of Sledmere [U DDSY/4/71-75; U DDSY/70/83; U DDSY/72/34; U DDSY(3)/7/73]


  • Allison, K J, A history of the county of York East Riding (1979)
  • Borland, Margaret & Dunning, John, Bishop Burton and its people: a village history (1992)
  • English, Barbara, The great landowners of East Yorkshire 1530-1910 (1990)
  • Foster, Joseph, Pedigrees of the county families of Yorkshire (1874-5)
  • Pevsner, N & Neave, D, The buildings of England: York and the East Riding (1995)
  • Ward, J T, East Yorkshire landed estates in the nineteenth century (1967)
  • Wildridge, T T, Old and New Hull (1889)