Papers of the Bosville-Macdonald Family of Gunthwaite, Thorpe and Skye

Scope and Content

The Bosville-Macdonald family owned lands in the West Riding centred on Gunthwaite and in the East Riding centred on Thorpe, near Scarborough and the estate papers for both Ridings are catalogued together alphabetically. They contain medieval charters, manorial records and title deeds, many of which have been printed in T Walter Hall, Land charters and court rolls from the Bosville collection (1930). Sections containing early material that is in print have been marked *.

U DDBM/1-21 contain estate papers as follows: *Barnsley (1344-1350, 1455-1460, 1638); Brandesburton (1719-late 18th century); Burton Fleming (1612-1774); *Cawthorne (1326-1334, 1599, 1776) including papers of the de Hertford family; Caythorpe (1800-1831), sale documents; *Darfield (1541-1750); *Gunthwaite (1406-1735) including the 1406 gift of William de Bosville and five 1690 plans for the house that Godfrey Bosville intended to build; Helmsley (1664), a 21 year lease of the castle granted to William Watson by the duke of Buckingham; *Hessle (1364); *Hoyland Swain (1549-1575); *Langsett (1367, 1814); *Mappleton (early 13th century); Meltham (1621); *Midhope (1553-1726) including a 1553 manor court roll, the transfer document of the manor to Godfrey Bosville in 1690 and a 1631 copy of the grant of the manor in 1270; *Oxspring (1549-1747) including manorial records and court rolls for 1549 and 1575; *Penistone (1557-1819), largely material related to the church, churchwardens and overseers of the poor and to the Free Grammar School as well as the 1819 enclosure bill; Roughbirchwood (1618, 1719); Seaton Ross (1742); *Thorpe and Rudston (1557-1874) including the appointment of a gamekeeper in 1831 and an 1874 plan of the Spring Dales estate; Tanshelf (1662); Worsborough (1565, 1690).

U DDBM also contains sections of estate papers for other counties, though these are not quite alphabetically ordered. Other estate papers are as follows: a deed to declare the uses of the manor, town and lordship of Burton in Cheshire from John, bishop of Lichfield (1716); Derbyshire (1570); Essex (copy of a pre-1140 grant of the tithe of Islip); Lancashire (18th century plan of the duke of Bridgewater's 'curious weir' in Castle Field near Manchester); Leicestershire (1622, 1654); *Staffordshire (1491-early 20th century), material largely relating to Eccleshall from an early gift to some twentieth-century postcards with papers of the Pershall family who were connected by marriage (the marriage settlement of Richard Bosville and Elizabeth Pershall is at U DDBM/34/5). Also in U DDBM are the papers of the descendants of Ralph Bosville, clerk of the court of wards (and younger brother of Godfrey Bosville of Gunthwaite), who settled in Bradborne (parish of Sevenoaks) in Kent in the sixteenth century. A junior branch of this family also settled at Eynsford and the Kent estate papers include settlements and deeds for these properties (1604-1702).

When the male line of the Bosville family ran out in 1813, the Bosville estates passed to Elizabeth Diana Bosville and her husband, Alexander Macdonald, with the result that U DDBM also contains some Scottish papers of the Macdonald family, reference U DDBM/27/1-6 (earlier Macdonald estate papers, diaries and correspondence are in the Scottish Record Office). The Scottish papers at Hull University Archives span the dates 1596-1933. They include the 1782 manuscript of D Macqueen's Enquiry into the chieftanship of Macdonald; the 1799 report of John Blackadder into the estate at Skye; an album containing copies of the correspondence between the 3rd Lord Macdonald (Godfrey Macdonald 1775-1832) and Alexander Macdonnell over their respective descent to chieftanship of the clan and addresses of welcome to Alexander Bosville-Macdonald in 1911 on his taking up residence in the Isle of Skye.

Other sections in U DDBM are: *various townships (1433-1830) including an 1809 survey of the estates of William Bosville and the 1830 sale of Penistone; *various deeds (1548-1814); *accounts and vouchers (1579-1832), household and personal account books including the pay account of Colonel Godfrey Bosvile's regiment of foot for the committee of safety for Warwickshire 1642 to 1645 and the clothing accounts of Captain and Mrs Bosville 1645 to 1654; *bonds (1546-1747).

Settlements in U DDBM (1559-1788) include the following marriage settlements: Francis Bosville and Dorothy Copley (1586); Richard Bosville and Elizabeth Pershall (1649); Henry Hall and Sarah Norton (1680); Thomas Hassell and Anne Elwick (1745); Thomas Place and Mary Bosville (1755); William Ward and Julia Bosville (1780); John Sinclair and Diana Macdonald (1788). Wills in U DDBM are as follows: Henry Bosville (1582); Thomas Hattersley (1603); John Haigh (1645); Edmund Rogers (1647); William Watson (1672); Thomas Hassel (1692); Thomas Wood (1695); William Bosville (1696); Thomas Hattersley (1699); Henry Bosville (1701); Thomas Hattersley (1711); Thomas Pershall (1713); Margaret Stanhope (1721, 1725); Francis Mosley (1727); William Blackett (1728); Catherine Osbaldeston (1733); Jane Gray (1735); Thomas Hassell (1737); Anne Hassell (1740); Samuel Hassell (1741); Thomas Brown (1743); Samuel Hassell (1744); Thomas Wentworth (1747); William Talbot (1749); Thomas Watson (1751); Thomas Hassell (1757); Henry Bosville (1761); Thomas Watson (1764); Thomas Hassell (1770); Godfrey Bosville (1780); Thomas Blackett (1790); William Bosville (1807). U DDBM is a collection rich in correspondence, the bulk of it being the correspondence of Godfrey Bosville (d.1714) and his wife Bridget Hotham (d.1708); Godfrey Bosville (d.1784) and his wife Diana Wentworth; Godfrey Macdonald (d.1832) and Alexander William Macdonald (Bosville) (d.1847). Other correspondence of interest include letters of the Pershall and Hassell families who were related by marriage; some eighteenth-century love letters to Diana Bosville (b.1754); two letters to Godfrey Bosville (1596-1658) and a letter dated 1783 to Captain Thomas Bosville about the will of Annabel Wentworth who left an endowment for a children's hospital in Nice.

The miscellaneous section of U DDBM contains genealogical material including an illuminated pedigree of 1586, an illuminated certificate of Ralph Bosville by the antiquarian and historian, William Camden, and a 1916 tree showing the descent of the families of Macdonald of Sleat and the Isles; a 1650 petition to parliament against sequestration by Thomas Bosville; a 1670 petition by Sarah Babington about her losses during the Irish Rebellion of 1641; an eighteenth-century edition of memoirs of the Bosville family ('a mere fragment' of the original which is missing; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, pp.2-3); lists of sheriffs of Yorkshire 1649-1710; a 1730 inventory of Lady Osbaldeston's plate; the 1720s cellar book of Godfrey Bosville; a 1731 document simply entitled 'Directions about Miss Bosvile'; the elaborate 1768 acounts for Lady Macdonald's wedding; the instructions c.1780 of Godfrey Bosville that his body should be used for medical research after his death (he also wanted to avoid being buried alive; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, p.176); horse racing programmes 1814-1831 and a copy of T Walter Hall's Land charters and court rolls from the Bosville collection (1930).

U DDBM2 is a very small collection of 49 letters (1807-1832 including a 1958 covering letter) and the 1914 motoring diary of Godfrey Macdonald (d.1951). The letters are nearly all supplemental correspondence of Godfrey Macdonald (d.1832) and his wife Louisa Maria (d.1835) including 27 letters to Louisa Maria sent while her husband was on active service during the Napoleonic wars. Also included are the 1939 commission of Alexander Somerled Angus Bosville-Macdonald, about 30 press cuttings and 3 letters relating to the death and funeral of Sir Alexander Macdonald of the Isles and two articles on Thorpe Hall from 1922 and 1923.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Bosville family trace their ancestry to a Martin de Bosville who came from Normandy in the eleventh century and is supposed to have died in Buckinghamshire in 1092. His descendants had interests in Yorkshire and Kent. In the thirteenth century John de Bosville of Ardsley married Agnes, daughter of John, Lord Folyot, and inherited a house at Holme on Spalding Moor through the marriage. One of their grandsons, William, was sheriff of Yorkshire and built a house called Bosville, now Bossal in the North Riding. John and Agnes's eldest son, John de Bosville, married Alice, daughter of Hugh and Clarice de Darfield, and they had five sons and four daughters. Alice was an heiress and this generation firmly established the family in Yorkshire (Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, pp.1, 5, 12-14).

The male line of John and Alice's eldest son expired with their grandson and the estates were given by him to a younger cousin, Robert Bosville (d.1363), constable of Pontefract. He and his older brother, Adam Bosville, were the sons of Peter Bosville (John and Alice's third son) and Beatrix, daughter of Lord Furnival. The earliest deeds in the collection relate to Adam Bosville. His wife also brought lands into the marriage so that his own son, Thomas Bosville of Ardsley, was quite wealthy (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, p.17).

Thomas Bosville married Alice, another heiress. Alice was the daughter of John of Gunthwaite and his wife Christiana and she brought into the Bosville family the old hall at Gunthwaite which was demolished in the nineteenth century. Thomas Bosville was succeeded by his son, Roger Bosville, who was succeeded in turn by his second son, John Bosville, of Ardsley who married Isabel Dronsfield, another heiress. Their only son, John Bosville, made two very successful marriages; the first to Mary, co-heiress of John Drax and the second to Isabel, daughter of Percival Cresacre of Barnborough. By his first wife he had William Bosville who went on to inherit Ardsley and the New Hall in Darfield and these properties were passed down through his descendants. By his second wife he had six children and Isabel became executrix of his will when he died in 1441. She gifted Gunthwaite to their eldest son, Richard, so starting the Gunthwaite branch of the family, and took the veil after the death of her second husband (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, pp.31, 36-7).

Richard Bosville married Jane Neville and had seven children. He died in 1501. Despite owning Gunthwaite he and his heir, John Bosville, lived much of the time at Beighton where they farmed the estate of Lord Dacre. John Bosville married Ann Clapham and they had three sons and several daughters, many of whom married outside Yorkshire. However, their eldest son, another John Bosville, married Muriel Barnby, whose parents were both from established East Riding families and their eldest son, Godfrey, re-established ties with Yorkshire (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, pp.88-9).

Godfrey Macdonald, who was born circa 1519, married Jane Hardwick (sister of 'Bess') of county Derby and settled at Gunthwaite. His sisters married outside Yorkshire; his brother, Henry, was a cloth-worker and his other brother, Ralph Bosville, became clerk of the court of wards and started the branch of the family living at Bradborne in Kent. He became very wealthy and bought the rectory manor of Penistone which he bestowed on Godfrey. Godfrey and Ralph Bosville died only two weeks apart in 1580. Ralph Bosville had married twice having a total of thirteen children. The eldest son, Henry Bosville of Bradborne, married Elizabeth Morgan who was the sole heiress of Bodiam Castle in Sussex through her mother. The second son, Robert Bosville, settled at Eynsford in Kent and this property passed down through his descendants. The third son Ralph Bosville, was a captain in the army in Ireland and when the male line of the Gunthwaite branch of the family died out with the death of Francis Bosville (son of Godfrey Bosville and Jane Hardwick), his heir inherited the Yorkshire estates (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family,

Ralph Bosville married Mary Copley in 1592 and their son, Godfrey, was baptised at Sprotborough on 12 April 1596. He married Margaret Greville and they had one son, William, and two daughters one of whom went on to marry a parliamentary army officer during the civil wars. Godfrey Bosville was MP for Warwick (having abandoned Gunthwaite and settled in Wroxall) in the Long Parliament and became a colonel of a regiment of foot. The two earliest letters amongst the correspondence of the collection are from Godfrey Bosville to retainers on the Gunthwaite estate (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, pp.62-3).

Godfrey Bosville died in 1658 and was succeeded to the Gunthwaite estates by William Bosville who had been born circa 1620. He married Mary Wilkinson, had two sons and four daughters and died just over a year after his wife, in 1662, when his eldest son, Godfrey Bosville (b.1654) was about seven. Godfrey Bosville, married Bridget, the daughter of John, 2nd baronet Hotham, and their correspondence is the first of any reasonable size in the collection, amounting to 85 letters (U DDBM/32/1-2, 19). He was involved in local affairs, being justice of the peace and high sheriff in 1705. He and his wife improved the estates, building part of the stables and a summer house and they had plans to build a new house which are in the collection. They also expanded by buying Midhope and by buying back the manor of New Hall which had passed out of the Bosville family with the death of Thomas Bosville in 1639 (descendant of William Bosville, son of John Bosville and Mary Drax). Bridget died in 1708 and her husband in 1714 and they are buried in the church at Penistone (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, chpt.viii).

Godfrey and Bridget Bosville left no children and the estates passed to the heirs of Godfrey's brother, William, who had predeceased him. William's eldest son, Henry, had predeceased his uncle so his second son, William, inherited in 1714 and held the estate until his premature death only ten years later. He was succeeded by his only son, Godfrey Bosville (b.1717) who married in 1739 Diana, eldest daughter of Sir William Wentworth of West Bretton and their correspondence in the collection is quite considerable at circa 120 letters. Godfrey and Diana Bosville had a wide circle of friends and the letters include one from James Boswell who claimed family connection with Godfrey. Godfrey and Diana also considerably increased their fortune through land inheritance. In 1762 Godfrey succeeded to Biana, a house and estate in Staffordshire (which had come into the possession of a junior branch of the Bosville family through the Pershall family) and in 1773 the house and estate of Thorpe Hall in the East Riding was gifted by Thomas Hassell, the husband of one of Diana's aunts. They instantly let Gunthwaite to tenants and chose to live at Thorpe and in the Great Russell Street house in London (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, pp.97-112).

Godfrey and Diana Bosville had two sons, William and Thomas, and two daughters, Elizabeth Diana and Julia. Thomas was shot at the battle of Liencelles in 1793 and two letters from him to his mother from school are in the collection (there is another letter to him at U DDBM/32/37). Seven of Julia's love letters, before her marriage to William Ward, lord viscount Dudley and Ward, are at DDBM/32/11. Elizabeth Diana Bosville married Alexander Macdonald, the first Macdonald to hold the Irish barony of Sleat (brother of James Macdonald [1742-1766], the mathematician), and their heirs ultimately inherited Gunthwaite. They lived at the Macdonald seat on the Isle of Skye. William (b.1745) succeeded to the estates on the death of his father in 1784 (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, pp.112-79).

William Bosville is described by the U DNB as 'a celebrated bon vivant'. He was schooled at Harrow and entered the Coldstream Guards in 1761. He served with a regiment for part of the American War and travelled widely on the continent. At home he lived in London where he entertained guests at his house in Welbeck Street at exactly five o'clock every weekday. He did not involve himself in his Yorkshire estates and was eccentric in his manners, always dressing in the manner of a courtier of George III. He was an ardent supporter of the reform party of the whigs and was friendly with Horne Tooke and William Cobbett (a letter from whom survives in U DDBM/32/12). He had influential friends, but unfortunately only 10 letters to him survive in the collection. When William Bosville died at the end of 1813 the male line of Bosville of Gunthwaite became extinct and the main beneficiary of his will was his nephew, Godfrey, the second son of Elizabeth Diana Bosville and her husband Alexander Macdonald (Foster, Pedigrees, iii; Macdonald, The fortunes of a family, pp.186-97; Dictionary of National Biography).

Alexander Macdonald and Elizabeth Diana Bosville had died in 1795 and 1789 respectively. They left behind seven sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Alexander Wentworth Macdonald, was unmarried and died in 1824. Godfrey (b.1775) assumed the name of Bosville in 1814 after succeeding his uncle. He succeeded as 3rd Lord Macdonald on the death of his brother. In 1799 he met and fell in love with Louisa Maria Edsir, who was just seventeen. When he put his suit to her father it transpired that a better match was expected for her because she was the illegitimate daughter of the duke of Gloucester (brother of George III) and Lady Almeria Carpenter. Godfrey Macdonald solved the problem by eloping with Louisa, but as she was a minor he could not marry her without the consent of her parents under English law. The couple therefore married by 'mutual consent' under Scottish law. They then travelled to Ireland with the 60th regiment where their first child, Alexander William Robert Macdonald, was born in 1800. They failed to go through a church wedding until two more children were born and they had returned to England. The formal English marriage ceremony thus did not take place until 1803. Their second two children died in infancy, leaving their eldest son as the only child born outside English wedlock. This was to lead to problems in succession (Macdonald, A romantic chapter in family history, pp.6-14).

Godfrey and Louisa Macdonald lived until 1832 and 1835 respectively and went on to have about another eight children. Godfrey Macdonald served during the Napoleonic wars and his correspondence and that of his wife (circa 300 letters in U DDBM and U DDBM[2]) includes his commentary on those wars and letters from the dukes of Kent and Devonshire, Admiral Ross Donnelly, Tatton Sykes, Lord Melbourne and the duke of Wellington (Foster, Pedigrees, iii).

When Godfrey died his eldest son, Alexander William, assumed the surname of Bosville and inherited the Thorpe and Gunthwaite estates in Yorkshire. However, as he was technically illegitimate in England, he did not succeed as 4th baron of Sleat; this title fell to his younger brother, Godfrey William Wentworth Bosville-Macdonald, who had been born after the 1803 church ceremony. In 1823 Alexander Bosville had married Matilda Moffat Bayard and they had two children, Godfrey Wentworth Bayard Bosville (b.1826) and Julia Louisa Bosville. Godfrey succeeded to the Yorkshire estates on the death of his father in 1847 and his fifteen day old son, Alexander Wentworth Macdonald Bosville, succeeded on his own premature death in 1865. Godfrey William Wentworth Bosville-Macdonald married Maria Anne Wyndham in 1845 and they had three sons and four daughters. Their eldest son, Somerled James Brudenell Bosville-Macdonald (b.1849) succeeded his father as 5th baron of Sleat on his father's death in 1863 and the family resided in Skye (Macdonald, A romantic chapter in family history, pp.20-33; Foster, Pedigrees, iii).

Although Alexander Wentworth Macdonald Bosville became a major Yorkshire landowner (8949 acres in 1873) and was very involved in local affairs being a justice of the peace and organist and choirmaster at Rudston church, the injustice of his grandfather being robbed of his Scottish inheritance rankled and he spent the last quarter of the nineteenth century trying to prove the legitimacy of the Scottish marriage that had taken place. In 1910 he was successful and his grandfather was retrospectively created 12th baronet and 19th chief of Sleat, his father was retrospectively created 13th baronet and 20th chief of Sleat and he, himself, became 14th baronet and 21st chief of Sleat. This unseated his cousin as 6th Lord Macdonald of the Isles and in 1911 Alexander Wentworth Macdonald Bosville travelled to Skye to take up residence at the seat of his forbears who could trace their ancestry back to Hugh Macdonald, Lord of the Isles in the mid-fifteenth century (papers in the Scottish Record Office) (Macdonald, A romantic chapter in family history, pp.38-40; Ward, East Yorkshire landed estates, pp.60-1).

In 1910 Alexander assumed the surname Macdonald thus becoming the rather cumbersome Alexander Wentworth Macdonald Bosville-Macdonald. His son, Godfrey Middleton Bosville-Macdonald (b.1887), succeeded to the titles in Scotland and the estates in Scotland and Yorkshire and died in 1951 when he in turn was succeeded by his son, (Alexander) Somerled Angus Bosville-Macdonald (b.1917) who died in 1958. His son, Sir Ian Godfrey Bosville-Macdonald, 17th baronet and 25th chief of Sleat (b.1947) is the present owner of the papers at Hull History Centre. The family seat is still Thorpe Hall which has long been the only house in the former village of Thorpe half a mile to the east of Rudston. A large brick house in 57 acres of grounds it became famous in the 1890s for having very early electric lighting.

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 in the East Riding Record Office and transferred to Hull University Archives in 1974; three small deposits followed on 3 September 1985, 18 February 1986 and 6 January 1987.

Related Material

Papers of Sir Alexander Wentworth Macdonald [U DP167]

From the Miscellaneous Local History Collection [U DDX/60/238]

From the papers of Professor Herbert King [U DDKG/99-105, 166, 213]

Other repositories:

Macdonald papers [GD 50], National Records of Scotland


  • Dictionary of National Biography
  • Macdonald, Alice, The fortunes of a family (1928)
  • Macdonald, Alice, A romantic chapter in family history (1911)
  • Ward, J T, East Yorkshire landed estates in the nineteenth century (1967)