Unlike many of the landed families of the East Riding of Yorkshire, the Grimston family, though holding parcels of land in the county for centuries, never properly consolidated their estates and they have not survived into the twentieth century as large landowners. This may be due partly to accident of location: originally holding the lordship of Grimston in Holderness, the family's manorial holding has slowly disappeared into the sea with not enough room to expand in other directions (Poulson, History...of Holderness, ii, pp.60-1).
Sylvester Grimston is said to have attended William the Conqueror as his standard bearer, becoming his chamberlain once he was on the throne. He held Grimston, one of the ten lordships of Holderness, from Lord Roos. The earls of Verulam, of Gorhambury in Hertfordshire, are descended in the female line from Sylvester Grimston. In the male line, his descendant, John Grimston, married the daughter and heiress of John Goodmanham and was buried in Goodmanham in 1164. He was knighted by Henry II (Legard, The Legards, p.210; Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Poulson, History...of Holderness, ii, p.60).
John Grimston's son, Martin Grimston, also married an heiress and their son, Roger Grimston, was lord of Grimston, Collam, Goodmanham, Tunstall and Holmeton and he was summoned in 1296 to provide military service against the Scots. In 1316 he was one of three knights in the East Riding empowered to raise forces against the Scots. He was also responsible for the theft of a valuable statue of the Virgin Mary from Fraisthorpe Chapel and the family was pursued by the church authorities for at least two decades from the time of its disappearance (Legard, The Legards, p.210; Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Allison, History of Yorkshire, ii, p.207).
Roger Grimston had two sons: Gerard Grimston who sold much land, including some in Beverley, and had no issue, and Walter Grimston, who married the heiress to the lord of Flinton and the Grimston family added Flinton to their holdings by this means. The Grimstons continued to reside at the manor house in Grimston Garth, but reproduced very prolifically, perhaps creating problems in establishing themselves as very wealthy landowners. Thomas Grimston (d.1508) married Elizabeth Girlington and they had 17 children, the eldest of whom, another Thomas Grimston, married Dorothy Thwaites and had 16 children. Nevertheless, by marrying an heiress and inheriting the lordship of Little Smeaton, he increased his fortunes enough to buy more land in Boythorpe in 1566 (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Allison, History of Yorkshire, ii, p.192).
Thomas and Dorothy Grimston were the common ancestors of two major colateral branches of the family, one with their seat at Grimston Garth and the other in Fraisthorpe and Neswick. Confusingly, they also had two sons with the same name - Marmaduke. Their eldest son, Marmaduke, married and had three children. He became High Sheriff of Yorkshire, but died in 1604 and his own heirs died young. Thomas Grimston's second son, Thomas, died without issue and his third son, the other Marmaduke, inherited Grimston Garth, Flinton, Collam, Goodmanham, Tunstall, Smeaton, Kirby and lands in Roos and Garton. A younger son, John Grimston, married Grace Strickland and Fraisthorpe may have been part of her dowry. This branch of the family continued to live in Fraisthorpe until the early eighteenth century when the land returned to the Strickland family after one Robert Grimston (bapt.1673) was the last to live there (Legard, The Legards, p.211; Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Allison, History of Yorkshire, ii, p.203).
His son, also Robert, married Esther Eures, who was the heiress of a Neswick surgeon and by this means Neswick came into the family. Robert and Esther Eure expanded their estates, buying land at Bainton in 1755 and building a house at Neswick. The male line ran out on this side of the family with Robert and Esther Grimston's grandchildren, when the eldest, John Grimston (d.1846), died without issue at the age of 70 years. His sisters, Lucy, Maria, Elizabeth and Esther, inherited money through their mother's will and became co-heiresses to the Neswick estates. Three of them were ultimately buried at Bainton. The eldest, Lucy (b.1772), married Sir Robert Wilmot (1765-1842) of Chaddesden in Derbyshire. Her first son inherited the Derbyshire title and estates, her second son died without issue, and her third son, John Wilmot (b.1807), inherited Neswick and took the name Grimston. His son, John Robert Grimston (b.1836) settled Neswick on his nephew and died without issue in 1873. The Hall was let in 1880 and it was demolished in 1954 (Legard, The Legards, p.211; Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Pevsner & Neave, York and the East Riding, p.270).
The Grimston Garth line of the family also had some trouble sustaining itself, despite continuing to be fecund in many generations. Marmaduke Grimston married Anne Dalton, but died quite young in 1623 leaving William (b.1619), a child of four years, to inherit. William married three times and had nine children by two of his wives. He died in 1664 and was succeeded by his second son, William (b.1640), who married twice and had at least nine children. He died in 1711 by which time his eldest son had predeceased him in 1681. During his lifetime Grimston Garth burned down and his second son, Thomas (b.1664), therefore, succeeded to scattered estates but no major family house (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Poulson, History...of Holderness, ii, p.62).
The slightly depleted fortunes of the family were reversed with the next two generations. Thomas Grimston married Dorothy, daughter of Sir John Legard, 1st baronet of Ganton. No less than five of their six children sadly died in infancy but a son, Thomas (b.1702), survived to succeed. The family became quite wealthy with this generation and the wealth saw the Grimston family buying and selling land at a prodigious rate for the next century. Thomas Grimston inherited Kilnwick, Little Smeaton and lands in Hull and the parish of Sutton from Admiral Medley. He bought the manor and estate of Ringborough, some of the manor at Kelk, land at Flamborough and a farm at Lund and in 1722 he married Jane Close, the heiress of Charles Stutville, her brother. By this means the Grimston family inherited an estate at Argam, one at Hunmanby and another at Fordon (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Allison, History of Yorkshire, ii, pp.7, 155, 182; Poulson, History...of Holdernness, ii, p.60).
Of their three children, two died young and their youngest son, John Grimston (b.1725), succeeded when his father died in 1751. John Grimston expanded the family property by buying the great tithes and some more land at Lund, near the Kilnwick estate, four houses in Beverley and some smaller parcels of land. In his lifetime he was forced to defend legally the Grimston title to Kilnwick from the claims of Admiral Medley's nephew, but this was a case he won and he passed on considerable property to the children he had by his wife, Jane Legard, whom he married in 1753 (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Poulson, History...of Holdernness, ii, p.60).
John Grimston died in 1780 and was buried in Kilnwick. By the time he died he had rebuilt Kilnwick Hall to a design of John Carr. His two surviving sons also used their legacies to build residences. His youngest son, Henry Grimston (1758-1828) built High Hall at Etton and this then passed to the descendants of his sister, Jane, who had married into the Legard family. The hall stayed in the family this way until 1927. The eldest son, Thomas Grimston (b.1753), also married into the Legard family and he and his wife, Frances (1757-1827), had eight children, though four sons died young including one who died at Rosetta in Egypt during the Napoleonic wars. A year after his father died Thomas Grimston began rebuilding the family house at Grimston Garth to the Georgian Gothic design of John Carr of York and he then divided his time between Kilnwick and Grimston Garth. His rental books are at U DDCV/200/3 (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Allison, History of Yorkshire, iv, p.109; Poulson, History...of Holdernness, ii, p.62; Pevsner & Neave, York and the East Riding, pp.410, 445, 578).
Thomas and Frances Grimston died in 1821 and 1827 respectively. They were succeeded by their fifth son Charles (b.1791), who rose to the rank of colonel in the East Yorkshire Militia and became a justice of the peace and deputy lieutenant of the East Riding. He was responsible for building the village at Kilnwick. He married Jane Trench in 1823 and they had fourteen children, nearly all of whom survived to adulthood. Charles Grimston died in 1859 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Marmaduke Jerard Grimston with whom the direct male line of the family died out as he had two daughters, Florence Maria Grimston and Rose Armatrude Grimston. They inherited a house each; one receiving Grimston Garth and the other taking possession of Kilnwick Hall where they continued to live into the early twentieth century. Some descendants of this extensive family still live in Holderness (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Legard, The Legards, p.211).