Papers of the Baines Family of Bell Hall, Naburn

Scope and Content

The Baines family papers consist of very considerable estate papers for properties in the three Ridings of Yorkshire, especially Naburn, Deighton and Wistow and Cawood (the abbreviations East Riding [ER], West Riding [WR] and North Riding [NR] will be used when describing the estate papers) as well as a very rich deposit of family letters, journals and diaries which are of particular interest for the study of colonial history, especially for nineteenth century New Zealand. The estate papers are catalogued alphabetically as follows: Bilsdale, NR (1700); Coneythorpe, WR (1785); Deighton manor, ER (1421-1688) comprising intermittent late medieval and early modern court rolls 1421-1602, pains 1584-1638 and estreats 1599-1688; Deighton, leases (1543-1873) including two schedules of deeds 1331-1706 and 1289-1716, the letters patent of 1542 granting to John Aske of Aughton the site of Ellerton Priory, a mansion house in York previously owned by Bolton Priory, Thykhede Priory and the manor of Deighton with a mansion house, some papers of the Robinson family including 'Madam Robinson's note for tyth' dated 1685 and the marriage settlements of Arthur Robinson and Elizabeth Walthall (1603) and John Robinson and Elizabeth Hutton (1639), a 1604 plan of Deighton by William Hampe, a rental account book 1800-1802, some 19th century plans of farms and Deighton Park, an original bundle of 17th century copies of medieval title deeds of St Mary's Abbey from circa 1158 (originals in John Rylands Library, Latin MS 221) and including a copy of the 1539 surrender of the Abbey and convent to Henry VIII, the wills of William Walthall (1608), Robert Bell (1757), Thomas Smith (1746), Robert Ward (1782) and Arthur Robinson (1685), the marriage settlements of Mary Denton and John Bell (1735), Ann Denton and Robert Bell (1743), Anna Maria Bell and William Cox (1783) and Arthur Robinson and Mary Molineux (1679); Dringhouses, WR (1728); Dunnington, ER (1820-1827); Ellenthorpe and Milby, ER (1597, 1636); Escrick, ER (1629-1630) being two confirmations by the Archbishop of York about the Robinson family pew in the church; Fryston and Hillam, WR (late 17th century) comprising an address on the difference between a court leet and a court baron; Hemingborough, ER (1870) including a valuation of furniture at Hemingborough Hall bought by William Mortimer Baines; Heworth, NR (1664-1679); Killinghall and Ferensby, WR (1554-1785) including some surrenders and admissions and an abstract of the title of Hewley Baines.

Estate papers for Naburn in the East Riding are considerable and span the dates 1486-1890. They include 17th century copies of medieval title deeds, a note that Bell Hall derived its name from Richard Bell who owned a manor house in 1585, the 1721 licence to Hewley Baines to erect a pew in the church, a settlement of 1760 further to the marriage of Hewley Baines and Lucy Masterman, the Naburn enclosure award of 1768, the marriage settlements of Richard Bell and Jane North (1566), Hewley Baines and Lucy Masterman (1716) and Hewley John Baines and Mary Mortimer (1786), some surveys of the land around Bell Hall, some 18th century leases, abstracts of the wills of Timothy Mortimer (1751) and John Mortimer (1752), the will of Hewley Baines (1759), an original bundle of 19th century estate papers including some farm accounts, tenancies, notes on the Reader family (ferrymen at Naburn), an account for the rebuilding of the church and a list of its incumbents 1475-1878 and some papers of the Bell, Levett and Palmes families. The remainder of the estate papers in DDBH are as follows: North Holme, NR (1737) being the agreement of sale to Hewley Baines; Ryther with Ozendyke, WR (16th century) including some pains laid in Ryther manor court; Sherburn in Elmet, WR (1693-1720); Sinderby, NR (1809); Stillingfleet, ER (1773); Wigginton, NR (1651-1847) including the 1847 survey of the lands of Hewley Mortimer Baines; Wistow and Cawood, WR (1518-1830) including early 16th century instructions for procedure in the manor court and other early 16th century manorial records, a schedule of Mr Beckwith's writings 1606-1732 and some 17th century surrenders and admissions in the manor court; York (1666, 1873) including 19th century papers about Fishergate House. Papers for places outside Yorkshire include a 1742 assignment for Lincolnshire and London papers of the Robinson family, London merchants (1574-1631) including 16th century bonds to the crown including one for John Thynne of Wiltshire. There are also papers for 'various townships' (1567-1830) including a 1760 rental for Wistow, Stillingfleet, Bell Hall, Naburn, Wigginton, Pickering, Conisthorp, Killinghall, Ferensby, Knaresborough and York and a list of estates of Hewley Baines with valuations in 1785, as well as details of legacies left under his will with an 1830 account of the legacy duty paid by his son, Hewley John Baines.

U DDBH also contains accounts and vouchers (1671-1883) including 17th century lawyers' accounts of Arthur Robinson, the accounts of Mary Robinson 1675-1703, various accounts of Hewley John Baines including a copy of the marriage certificate of Hewley Baines and Mary Ellis (1754), an account for an upright pianoforte in 1806 and various furniture and meat accounts, executors' account books, an 18th century servants' wages book, a female servants' book 1830-1873, the 1830 funeral account of Hewley John Baines, the private cash account book of Mary Baines 1838-1849 and an 1839 account for painting and decorating. Bonds in the collection span the dates 1678-1686 and are those of Arthur and Mary Robinson.

There are also legal papers (1608-1834) and again many of these are cases pursued by the Robinson family in the 17th century to do with such things as trespass, evictment and tithes. However, there are also 18th century opinions on family settlements and Baines family titles. A section catalogued as 'various deeds' (1587-1918) includes extracts from accounts drawn up by Robert Aske as sheriff of Yorkshire 1587-1588, a 1690 award of boundary wall and rights of light between the houses of Margaret Hardwick and William Justice, an 1832 valuation of furniture at Lingcroft and an original bundle of correspondence and papers of the Reverend Cecil Henry Legard with some Legard family inventories 1868-1918. Settlements in DDBH (1582-1876) include the marriage settlements of Thomas Fairfax and Ellen Aske (1582), Thomas Armstrong and Margaret Nicholson (1712), Hewley Baines and Lucy Masterman (1718), Henry Baines and Emily Jane Pease (1857) and Stuart Alexander Menzies and Charlotte Amy Bewicke (1876). Wills in DDBH are as follows: John Hewley (1682), Arthur Robinson (c.1685), Sarah Hewley (1707), Henry Masterman (1731), George Colbatch (1754), William Harrison (1802), Mary Baines (1834), Hewley John Baines (1819), Mary Baines (1831), Hewley Mortimer Baines (several - 1846-1871), James Middleton Hall (1875) as well as various letters of administration and executors' accounts for the Baines family through to 1916.

Correspondence comprises over 2000 letters (1760-1918) largely dating from the late nineteenth century and dominated by letters of William Mortimer Baines (1830-1912), his wife, Mary Ann Verdon (1839-c.1932) and their fifteen children. However, earlier correspondence includes that of Hewley John Baines and his wife, Mary Mortimer (about estate affairs, local society, friends and relations); their daughter, Mary Baines (about family and local gossip as well as some national gossip including such things as a report of the cholera epidemic on the Isle of Man and notice of the death of the king); their eldest son, Hewley Mortimer Baines (about estate affairs, local affairs and including letters of his children) and his wife, Mary Askwith (also about local affairs, with many from her children including a description of her son, Henry Baines', voyage to America). There are also letters of their eldest son, Hewley John Baines including some about his disagreement with his father over his second marriage to Esther Mary Shannon in Ireland. There is also a bundle of letters from his wife to his younger brother, William Mortimer Baines, after his death in 1855, mostly about her financial problems as a widow. The bulk of the correspondence in U DDBH is that of William Mortimer Baines, youngest son of Hewley Mortimer Baines and Mary Askwith, who spent the first part of his adult life prospecting and saw milling in the north island of New Zealand before returning as heir to the English estates at Naburn with his New Zealand wife, Mary Ann Verdon. There are early school letters to his parents, letters about his early establishment in New Zealand, about buying land in Auckland and the Waikato, about building two churches and the purchase of a saw mill. The correspondence contains many letters from friends and contacts in New Zealand and they are therefore useful for throwing light on affairs in New Zealand such as troop instalment, building in Auckland, relations with the Maori and changes in government, as well as the general economic climate of New Zealand and the fortunes and failures of its settlers. They are particularly interesting on the subject of gold mines and prospecting. The letters also contain news of the births of the first seven of their children in Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand and the trips back to England in the 1870s, first of William Mortimer Baines with his eldest child and then of Mary Ann Baines with her other six children. The correspondence of William Mortimer Baines after his return to Yorkshire in 1868 continues to be from friends and contacts, including his estate agent in New Zealand and therefore contains news of New Zealand family property, though it also broadens out to include news of Australia and India where three of his children went to live and/or work. Letters to Mary Ann Baines in this later period are embedded amongst the correspondence of her husband, except for U DDBH/27-8 which comprise letters to her alone from their children. William Mortimer Baines' correspondence from 1874 includes information on estate affairs at Bell Hall and there is an original bundle of letters from Thomas Harrison about shooting in Naburn Wood. Another bundle of letters relates to the loss at sea on the 'Port Yarrock' of William Philip Baines, the tenth child of William Mortimer and Mary Ann Baines. There is also an original bundle of letters relating to the affairs of William Price and some miscellaneous correspondence about legal affairs, fox hunting and five letters written to Mary Frances Baines from New Zealand friends (children) after her departure for England with her father in 1868.

The collection also contains some interesting miscellaneous material including family locks of hair and the cuff of a baby's dress. There are also pedigrees, army commissions, an 1822 book of Chinese puzzles, some valuations and lists of personal effects, the funeral sermon of Dame Sarah Hewley, around seventy 19th century recipes and medical cures, a Crimean War almanac of 1856, a miner's certificate from New Zealand circa 1866 and a 1905 note book of Mary Ann Baines containing jottings about New Zealand.

Administrative / Biographical History

The estate papers in this collection relate to two families - Hewley and Baines - who had resided in Wistow from about the fourteenth century. From the 1660s John Hewley (born in Wistow in 1619), lawyer of Gray's Inn and whig MP for Pontefract and also York, began buying land at Naburn. Nonconformist in religion, he may have done this to get around the law that prevented nonconformist ministers from residing within five miles of York. The property had been in the York families of Bell and North and their earlier mansion house was demolished by John Hewley in 1679 to erect a new Bell Hall, just 500 yards from the River Ouse ('Bell Hall', Country Life, p.820; Wilberforce-Bell & Alec-Smith, 'Bell Hall', pp.22-3; Allison, History of the county of York, iii, p.77).

John Hewley was married to Sarah Woolryche (b.1627), who was an active presbyterian sympathiser and wood panelling in Bell Hall is reputed to hide cavities in the walls where she hid presbyterian ministers. John and Sarah Hewley had two sons but they both died young and when John Hewley died in 1695 he left a large bequest to his sister's grandson. She was Margaret Hewley (1620-1659) and she had married John Baines (b.1623) from their home village of Wistow. Sarah Hewley was the heiress of her father, Robert Woolryche, and when she died in 1710 she left bequests to the nonconformist church and the rest of the Bell Hall estate to the grandson of Margaret Hewley and John Baines as well (Baines, Old Naburn, pedigree; Arnold, 'Bell Hall'; Wilberforce-Bell & Alec-Smith, 'Bell Hall', pp.23-4).

By this means, Bell Hall changed hands from the Hewley to the Baines family, who have owned the house since 1710 and it is unusual in being a house that has never changed hands by purchase. Hewley Baines was born in 1693 and therefore was just 17 when he inherited. He married Lucy Masterman, probably around 1720, and they had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Their eldest son, Hewley Baines (b.1721), succeeded to the Bell Hall estates when his father died in the same year as his mother in 1760. He married Mary Ellis (1733-1778) in 1754 and they had nine children. He died in 1800 and was succeeded by Hewley John Baines (b.1762), who is the first member of the family for whom there is any correspondence some of which relates to his activities as colonel of the York Volunteers (Baines, Old Naburn, pedigree; Wilberforce-Bell & Alec-Smith, 'Bell Hall', p.24).

Hewley John Baines married Mary Mortimer (1762-1826) in 1786 and they had one son, Hewley Mortimer Baines (b.1788) and three daughters, one of whom died at the age of two and a half and the other two at the relatively young ages of twenty five and thirty nine years. Mary Baines began a family tradition of keeping samples of hair, all of which survive in the collection, the earliest samples being that of her eldest daughter, Mary Ann (b.1789) taken when she was not quite two, in 1791, and then when she died later in the same year (Baines, Old Naburn, pedigree; U DX196/2).

Hewley John Baines died in 1830 and was succeeded to the Bell Hall estates by Hewley Mortimer Baines who was married to Mary Harrison (b.1798). They had four children and were destined to outlive all but one of them. Their eldest child, Mary Catherine (b.1821), married John James Harrison in 1845, from a successful banking family at Harrogate, and they had nine children before she died in 1871. The second child, Hewley John Baines (b.1823), was a captain of the 95th regiment of foot and served in Ireland. In 1844 he secretly married Clara Maria Wade and she died within the year. When he remarried, Esther Mary Shannon, in 1846, his father, angered at his conduct, cut him out of his will. Letters of Hewley John Baines and his second wife are in the collection. They had no children and he died in 1855. Their third child, Henry Baines (b.1824), was a captain in the East Yorkshire militia and there is correspondence of his in the collection as well, including letters home from a trip to America. He married Emily Jane Pease, but died without issue in 1868, so never succeeding to the estates; his father was, by this time, the oldest inhabitant in the region (Baines, Old Naburn, pedigree; U DX196/1).

The fourth child of this generation, William Mortimer Baines, was born in 1830 and has left a very considerable number of personal papers starting with early letters to his father while at Bishopton Close School and Rugby. As a young man he travelled out to New Zealand, meeting and marrying there Mary Ann Verdon in 1855. In the early 1850s he bought land in Auckland and the Waikato, engaging in saw milling and gold prospecting. He and his wife lived at Remuera and Mount Eden where they had no less than seven children in the first dozen years they were married. These were: Mary Frances Mortimer Baines (b.1856), Katherine Baines (b.1858), Rosa Augustin Baines (1861), Emily Edith and Annie Baines, twins (b.1863), Hewley Mortimer Baines (1865) and Henry Verdon Baines (b.1868). This last child was born just three days before the death of William Mortimer Baines' brother Henry and his father wrote immediately saying that as the heir to Bell Hall he should return home. Within a few months he boarded the 'Kate Waters' with his eldest daughter who had never seen England or her English grandparents. Mary Ann Baines remained in New Zealand with their six youngest children and arranged for their Mount Eden estate to be let, following her husband at the end of the next year (Baines, Old Naburn, pedigree; U DX196/1).

In 1870 William Mortimer and Mary Ann Baines rented Hemingborough Hall, buying the furniture in it, and on 30 August their eighth child, Ethel Mary Baines, was born in England. She was followed by Hilda Jane Maud Baines in 1872 and Mary Ann Baines was pregnant again when her husband finally succeeded to Bell Hall on the deaths of Hewley Mortimer Baines and his wife Mary within a month of one another in early 1874. The growing family moved into Bell Hall in time for William Philip to be born in May 1874. He was followed over the next ten years by five more children: Lucy Masterman Baines (1876), Leonard Mortimer Baines (1878), Winifred Esther Nona Baines (1879), Dorothy Sybella Baines (1881) and Walter Francis Woolryche Baines (1884). William Mortimer Baines and his wife, Mary Ann, were extremely unusual: despite having a very large family and emigrating right around the world not one of their children was lost in infancy or to childhood illness. All of their children except one lived into the twentieth century, nearly all of them living to old age. Only William Philip Baines, the first to be born in England, died as a young adult in the ship wreck of the 'Port Yarrock' off the coast of Ireland in 1894. Three of their children went to live overseas: Rosa Augusta Baines became a nurse in India and the eldest son, Hewley Mortimer Baines, was an engineer in the public works department in India. Letters from them in India are a useful source for Indian colonial history. Hilda Jane Maud Baines married a doctor and went to live in South Australia (Baines, Old Naburn, pedigree; U DX196/2).

This generation inherited its long-livedness from both parents. William Mortimer Baines died in 1912, at the age of eighty-two. His wife, despite fourteen pregnancies, outlived him, dying at the age of ninety-three years, in 1932. William Mortimer Baines published two books during his life, the first soon after his return from New Zealand, about his experiences there: The Narrative of Edward Crewe (1874). The second book was published some twenty years later, when he was selling off his New Zealand property and was very settled on his inherited estate at Bell Hall: Old Naburn (1895). Mary Ann Baines went on living at Bell Hall after the death of her husband and the property was then held in trust by their two eldest sons, Hewley Mortimer Baines (d.1945) and Henry Verdon Baines (d.1954), before passing to the eldest son of Hewley Mortimer Baines, John Hewley Baines, solicitor (b.1935). Bell Hall, a brick house, with stone dressings, five bays wide and three tall (with basement and attic also), is a beautiful, symmetrical, Wren-style house that pre-figures the best Georgian architecture while still containing much of its richly-carved, seventeenth-century wood pannelling. It also contains many portraits of this lively and interesting East Yorkshire family (Wilberforce-Bell & Alec-Smith, 'Bell Hall', p.24; Allison, History of the county of York, iii, pp.77-8).


U DDBH/1 Bilsdale (North Riding), 1700

U DDBH/2 Coneythorpe (West Riding), 1785

U DDBH/3 Deighton (East Riding), 1158-1873

U DDBH/4 Dringhouses (West Riding), 1728

U DDBH/5 Dunnington (East Riding), 1820-1827

U DDBH/6 Ellenthorpe and Milby (North Riding), 1597-1636

U DDBH/7 Escrick (East Riding), 1629-1630

U DDBH/8 Fryston and Hillam (West Riding), late 17th century

U DDBH/9 Hemingbrough (East Riding), 1870

U DDBH/10 Heworth (North Riding), 1664-1679

U DDBH/11 Killinghall and Ferrensby (West Riding), 1554-1785

U DDBH/12 Naburn (East Riding), 1486-1890

U DDBH/13 Northolme (North Holme? North Riding), 1737

U DDBH/14 Ryther with Ozendyke (West Riding), 1557

U DDBH/15 Sherburn in Elmet (West Riding), 1693-1720

U DDBH/16 Sinderby (North Riding), 1809

U DDBH/17 Stillingfleet (East Riding), 1773

U DDBH/18 Wigginton (North Riding), 1651-1847

U DDBH/19 Wistow and Cawood (West Riding), 1499-1889

U DDBH/20 York, 1666-1873

U DDBH/21 Lincolnshire, 1742

U DDBH/22 London (Robinson Family), 1568-1631

U DDBH/23 Various Townships, 1567-1830

U DDBH/24 Accounts and Vouchers, 1671-1883

U DDBH/25 Bonds, 1678-1686

U DDBH/26 Correspondence, 1760-1918

U DDBH/27 Diaries and Journals, circa 1780-1875

U DDBH/28 Legal, 1608-1834

U DDBH/29 Miscellaneous, 1724-1905

U DDBH/30 Settlements, 1582-1876

U DDBH/31 Various Deeds, 1587-1918

U DDBH/32 Wills, 1682-1916

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Other Finding Aids

Entry in Landed family and estate papers subject guide

Custodial History

Deposited in the East Riding Record Office by J H Baines in 1963 and transferred to Hull University Archives in 1974. Hull University Archives purchased the collection from the executors of J H Baines in June 2021 with the aid of grants from Friends of the National Libraries and a private donor.

Related Material

Papers relating to the Baines family [U DX196]

Papers of the Forbes Adam/Thompson/Lawley (Barons Wenlock) Family of Escrick [U DDFA]

Papers of the Palmes Family of Naburn [U DDPA]

From the papers of the Preston Family of Moreby [U DDPR/7/353-356]

From the papers of the Trust of the Ion and Tate Families, Hemingbrough Hall Estate [U DTT/53]


  • Allison, K J, The Victoria History...of Yorkshire East Riding (1976)
  • Arnold, Hilary, 'Bell Hall', York Georgian Society Annual Report (1982)
  • Baines, William Mortimer, The Narrative of Edward Crewe (1874)
  • Baines, William Mortimer, Old Naburn (1895)
  • 'Bell Hall', Country Life, (June, 1922)
  • Stewart, Michael, 'A Directory of Relations' U DX196
  • Wilberforce-Bell, Harold & Alec-Smith, 'Bell Hall, Naburn', Transactions of the Georgian Society for East Yorkshire, 3 (1951-2)