Papers of the Dunnington-Jefferson Family of Thicket Priory and Thorganby

Scope and Content

This is a collection entirely composed of estate papers, especially for Hook, Howden, Thorganby and West Cottingwith, all in the East Riding, though there is also a small amount of related estate correspondence 1855-1869.

Estate papers are as follows: Asselby (1613, 1718-1723); Aughton (1626-1659); Barlby (1728, 1866-1867); Bubwith (1587-1841) including the marriage settlements of Richard Aske and Susanna Blanshard (1661), Charles Bosvile and Anne Southaby (1697) and Thomas Swan and Margaret Horsley (1714), the will of Thomas Swan (1753) and the enclosure act of 1832; Cliffe (1701-1763); Eastrington (1765-1844) including an original bundle of plans and agreements made for and with the Hull and Selby Railway Company and the 1844 prospectus for Eastrington School; Ellerton (1846-1850) including papers about the rebuilding of the church; Elvington (1597); Gilberdyke (1707, 1867-1880) including two 19th century school appointments; Goole (1748-1770); Hambleton (1700-1819); Harlthorpe (1699-1876) including the wills of Thomas Eland (1816), George Eland (1845) and Peter Wilson (1763); Hillam and Monk Fryston (1679-1759); Hook (1568-1839) including the 1771 account for the repair of Hook Mill, a pedigree of the Lightfoot family 1759-1813 and a copy of the will of John Leach (1824); Howden (1582-1866) including the 1582 letters patent granting tithes and prebends, the marriage settlement of John Lewton and Sarah Marsh (1710), 17th century leases of the bishop's manor house and a 19th century copy of a 1561 survey of the bishop's manor house; North Duffield (1744-1841) including the marriage settlements of William Middleton and Frances Errington (1759), William Fermor and Frances Middleton (1760) and William Middleton and Clara Louise Grace (1782) and the will of Charles Allanson (1766); Kellington (1597-1647); Leeds (1754); Lumby (1747) including the marriage settlement of George Spinke and Dorothy Waude (1747); Naburn (1766) being the enclosure act; North Newbald (1713-1859) including some papers of the Clough family, copies of the wills of Robert Hornsey (1819), Richard Mountain (1787), Frances Hopper (1822), William Ombler (1830) and Thomas Bainton (1839) and the 1858 sale plans and particulars of the Newbald Hall estate; Reedness (1673); Selby (1707-1710); Skipwith (1626-1743) including the will of John Herbert (1722); Swinefleet (1634); Thorpe Willoughby (1673-1828) including the marriage settlement of John Fawcett and Sarah Hodgson (1676), the will of William Nutt (1691) and pedigrees of the Barber family of Sherburn 1737-1804 and Thompson family 1769-1821; Whitgift (1693); York (1738-1854) including 16 election squibs 1780-1790, a mortgage for a house in the Shambles, a paper about the government of Sunday Schools and the 91st annual report of York County Hospital of 1832.

Papers for Thorganby and West Cottingwith (1612-1867) are extensive and include the marriage settlements of William Grave and Isabella Machell (1612), Thomas Grave and Elizabeth Hesselwood (1625), William Swailes and Dorothy Raynes (1655), Thomas Hasselwood and Mary Cooper (1686), Edward Swailes and Mary Overend (1691), John Yeoman and Anne Walker (1704), George Blanshard and Margaret Wilkinson (1706), Alice Hardy and William Noble (1716), William Swailes and Jane Williamson (1717), and Sarah Robinson and Henry Waite (1752), the wills of William Graves (1688), Thames Cooper (1694), John Cooper (1695), Robert Hardy (1700), Hugh Blyth (1717), William Noble (1722), Ann Hardy (1723), Joshua Cooper (1732), Sarah Tyler (1734), William Cooper (1743), Thomas Cooper (1748), Bernard Ackroyd (1761), William Caister (1790), William Clarkson (1802), Sarah North (1803), Elizabeth Clarkson (1805), Jerman Pegg (1808), Herbert Soule (1819), William Tuke (1820), John Preston (1821), John North (1827), Thomas Preston (1827), James Atkinson (1829), John Webster (1832), George Webster (1833), John Brown (1841), John Archbell (1844) and Luke Gowthorpe (1854), an inventory of the goods of Ellen Dunnington (1758), and abstract of the title of Thomas Bradford 1708-1801, the enclosure act of 1810, the enclosure awards and plans of 1817 and enclosure taxes, the foundation papers of the Thorganby and West Cottingwith Association for the Prosecution of Felons dated 1829 and the minute book of the foundation 1829-1843, some 19th century surveys of farms, some 19th century notes and extracts relating to the history of Thickett Priory, a mandate of the Archdeacon of Cleveland for declaration of absolution of Ann Smithson from excommunication dated 1765 and the 1839 licence granted by the Archbishop of York for Joseph Dunnington to reside at Thickett Priory; Wheldrake (1659-1850) including the marriage settlement of William Tate and Ellen Blanshard (1667).

Material catalogued as 'various townships' (1590-1843) includes the marriage settlements of John Vavasour and Katherine Ackroyd (1655), Robert Jefferson and Elizabeth Battell (1698) and John Dunnington and Dorothy Tomlinson (1759) and copies of the marriage settlements of Francis Annesley and Anne Gayer (1729), Arthur Annesley and Catherine Hardy (1785) and Isaac and Ann Broadley (1758), some 18th century leases in Hook, Howden and West Cottingwith and the will of Dorothy Dunnington (1767). There are a few papers for County Westmorland (1820-1832) and County Wicklow (1808-1852) and the latter includes some correspondence about the Granaby estate and an 1839 survey of the estate of Lady Vavasour.

In addition to the above estate papers U DDJ also contains a bundle of papers related to the Drax Enclosure Act of 1773 including a survey of new allotments and a section of acts of parliament (1732-1857) which includes the Ouse Navigation Act of 1832, enclosure acts for Naburn, Hook, Wallingfen, Market Weighton, Askwith, Monk Fryston, South Milforth and Lumby, Hambleton, Hillam, Selby, North Duffield, West Cottingwith and Thorganby, Eastrington and Bubwith and the Pocklington Canal Bill of 1814.

U DDJ/34 is a large section of miscellaneous material (1674-1871) and it includes bonds and a number of papers in legal cases, the account book of John Dunnington 1753-1758 largely relating to corn sales and other miscellaneous family accounts, six pamphlets of the Church Institution dated 1863, an original bundle of papers relating to the election of 1868 including some correspondence and canvassing papers, a few letters and papers of Joseph Dunnington-Jefferson about local government such as the building of a reformatory and affairs in the local magistrates' courts, an original bundle of papers relating to the enclosure of East Cottingwith, an original bundle of papers relating to Market Weighton and Wallingfen drainage and canal proposals including a surveyor's notebook of 1773 and estimates of costs, 19th century printed material which includes poll books, pamphlets on reformatories and the rules of the Beverley house of correction in 1866, the account book of Robert Jefferson in the 1770s, the arithmetic exercise book of Joseph Dunnington in 1819, the journal of a continental tour in 1830, a prescription for and article on cholera and a bulletin on the fall of Sebastopol in 1855.

The collection contains the following wills: Robert Baillie (1648); William Cowper (1658); Tristram Rooth (1676); William Swailes (1682); William Graves (1688); William Hutt (1700); William Battell (1711); John Bromley (1725); Elias Garton (1729); Barbara Lowther (1731); Edward Swailes (1733); Thomas Dunnington (1733); Emanuel Jefferson (1761); Elizabeth Broadley (1787); Anthony Godfrey Ficker (1809); James Craven (1805); John North (1827); Bryant's map of the East Riding dated 1829; and Joseph Dunnington-Jefferson's estate letter books 1855-1869.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Dunnington family were landowners in the East Riding from at least the seventeenth century - in 1685 Thomas Dunnington (d.1710) bought low-lying land at Thorganby and West Cottingwith, about eight miles south east of York close to the banks of the River Derwent. Much of this land had been in the Saltmarshe family for generations, before changing ownership several times. Through the early eighteenth century the Dunnington family expanded their holdings, eventually becoming the major landholders in Thorganby and West Cottingwith until the twentieth century. Thomas Dunnington's son, also Thomas Dunnington (alive in the 1730s), bought land also at Bubwith (Ward, East Yorkshire landed estates, p.43; Allison, History of Yorkshire East Riding, iii, pp.112, 114; Saltmarshe, 'Notes on Thorganby', pp.31-4; U DDJ/3/5).

Thomas Dunnington had at least three children - John Dunnington, who married Dorothy Tomlinson in 1759; William Dunnington; and Ellen or Eleanor Dunnington, who married Emanuel Jefferson from a landowning family of Hook and Howden. In 1760 Emanuel Jefferson bought the manor of West Cottingwith, so extending his landholding in the area of his wife's family. After Emanuel Jefferson's death in 1770, his son, Robert Jefferson, expanded the West Cottingwith estate slightly and involved himself more than his father had in the district, establishing charities to educate the children of his tenants and distributing coal amongst the poor in the winter. His cousin, Thomas Dunnington, was the schoolmaster and curate and by the late eighteenth century Thomas's older brother, John Dunnington junior (b.1759), had rebuilt the schoolhouse and more than half the children of the district were educated without expense to their parents. When Robert Jefferson died in 1811 the manor of West Cottingwith along with Jefferson family land in Hook and Howden passed to John Dunnington junior who added the surname Jefferson to Dunnington from that time (Ward, East Yorkshire landed estates, p.43; Allison, History of Yorkshire East Riding, iii, pp.115, 120).

John Dunnington junior thus became a considerable landowner; tithes he held in 1801 were worth over £100 per annum and after his inheritance, he bought more land and in 1822 built Thorganby Hall. He also benefitted from several allotments at enclosure. He died in 1840. His land and assets were inherited by his nephew, Joseph Dunnington (b.1807) son of Joseph Dunnington (1769-1835) and his wife Mary Toutill. Joseph Dunnington junior also adopted the double surname of Dunnington-Jefferson, from 1841 (Ward, East Yorkshire landed estates, p.43; Allison, History of Yorkshire East Riding, iii, pp.115, 120).

Joseph Dunnington-Jefferson went to St John's in Cambridge in 1825 and became vicar of Thorganby in 1832. He was a wealthy man. The living he succeeded to was worth about £50 per annum but in two increases in the 1860s this went up by 200%. He became prebend of York in 1852 and employed an assistant curate for Thorganby where the Church of England communion was unusually active. Soon after his uncle's death the Reverend Dunnington-Jefferson moved from the vicarage, which was sold as a private house, and he built, between 1844-7, Thicket Priory, a large pseudo-Elizabethan red brick mansion. In 1862 he built another pseudo-Elizabethan house, at Sober Hill, Newbald, after buying 710 acres of land there in 1759. By 1873, from Thicket Priory and its 150 acre park, he controlled 7278 acres with a combined rental of nearly £11,000 and in addition he held over 500 acres in the West Riding which drew in over £1000. In 1839 he had married Anna Mervynia Vavasour, daughter of the 2nd baronet. During his life he published a volume of his sermons. He died in 1880 (Ward, East Yorkshire landed estates, p.43; Allison, History of Yorkshire East Riding, iii, pp.115-120, iv, p.135; Pevsner & Neave, York and the East Riding, pp.86, 722).

Joseph and Anna Mervynia Dunnington-Jefferson had three sons. The eldest, Joseph John Dunnington-Jefferson (1845-1928), was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He became a barrister and justice of the peace and major of the Yorkshire Hussars. His younger brother was Captain Mervyn Dunnington Jefferson of Middlethorpe Hall. His youngest brother was Thomas Trafford Dunnington-Jefferson (b.1852), who was also a barrister of the Inner Temple, but he died prematurely in 1881. Joseph John Dunnington-Jefferson died without issue and he was succeeded to his estates by his nephew, John Alexander Dunnington Jefferson (b.1884), son of Mervyn Dunnington Jefferson. John Alexander Dunnington-Jefferson was educated at Eton and Sandhurst before joining the Royal Fusiliers in 1904. He served in the army during the First World War and then retired in 1919 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1921 he became a Justice of the Peace for the East Riding and in 1936 served as Deputy Lieutenant. In 1938 he married Isobel Cape and they had one son, Mervyn Stewart Dunnington Jefferson, who was born in 1943. John Alexander Dunnington-Jefferson was knighted in 1944 and was created baronet in 1958. In 1955 he sold Thicket Priory to Carmelite nuns, so returning the land to its original use as the site of a women's religious order. He moved to Thorganby Hall but then sold all land holdings in Thorganby and West Cottingwith in 1964 (Allison, History of Yorkshire East Riding, iii, pp.114-15; Alumni Cantabrigienses, ii, p.557; Who was who, vii, p.234).


U DDJ/1 Asselby, 1613 - 1723

U DDJ/2 Barlby, 1728 - 1867 U DDJ/3 Bubwith, 1587 - 1841

U DDJ/4 East Cottingwith, 1638 - 1879

U DDJ/5 Eastrington, 1765 - 1844

U DDJ/6 Ellerton, 1846 - 1850

U DDJ/7 Elvington, 1597

U DDJ/8 Gilberdike, 1707 - 1880

U DDJ/9 Harlthorpe, 1699 - 1876

U DDJ/10 Howden, 1582 - 1906

U DDJ/11 North Duffield, 1744 - 1841

U DDJ/12 North Newbald, 1713 - 1859

U DDJ/13 Skipwith, 1626 - 1743

U DDJ/14 Thorganby and West Cottingwith, 1612 - 1867

U DDJ/15 Wheldrake, 1659 - 1850

U DDJ/16 Drax Inclosure, 1773 - 1775

U DDJ/17 Goole, 1748 - 1770

U DDJ/18 Hambleton, 1700 - 1819

U DDJ/19 Hillam and Monk Friston, 1679 - 1759

U DDJ/20 Hook, 1568 - 1839

U DDJ/21 Kellington, 1597 - 1647

U DDJ/22 Leeds, 1754

U DDJ/23 Lumby, 1747

U DDJ/24 Reedness, 1673

U DDJ/25 Selby, 1707 - 1710

U DDJ/26 Swinefleet, 1634

U DDJ/27 Thorpe Willoughby, 1673 - 1828

U DDJ/28 Whitgift, 1692

U DDJ/29 York, 1738 - 1854

U DDJ/30 Various Townships, 1590 - 1843

U DDJ/31 Co. Westmorland, 1820 - 1832

U DDJ/32 Co. Wicklow, 1808 - 1852

U DDJ/33 Acts of Parliament, 1732 - 1857

U DDJ/34 Miscellaneous, 1674 - 1871

U DDJ/35 Wills, 1648 - 1827

U DDJ/36 Maps, 1829

U DDJ/37 Aughton, 1626 - 1659

U DDJ/38 Cliffe, 1701 - 1763

U DDJ/39 Naburn, 1766

U DDJ/40 Correspondence, 1808 - 1869

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 Lt. Col. Sir John Dunnington-Jefferson, Thorganby Hall, in 1974

Related Material

From the Papers of the Forbes Adam/Thompson/Lawley Family of Escrick [U DDFA/14/139]


  • Allison, K J, The Victoria history of Yorkshire East Riding (1972-6)
  • Pevsner, N & Neave, D, The buildings of England: York and the East Riding (1995)
  • Saltmarshe, Philip, 'Notes on Thorganby', Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society, 20 (1913)
  • Semlyn, Rachel, 'Farewell to the "old fashioned" Yorkshire village?', Yorkshire Ridings Magazine, 12 (1975)
  • Venn, J A, Alumni Cantabrigienses 1752-1900 (1947)
  • Ward, J T, East Yorkshire landed estates in the nineteenth century (1967)
  • Who was who 1971-1980 (1981)