From time to time I am asked questions by members of the public regarding certain aspects of Doncaster’s past. I never say ‘I don’t know’ until I have at least tried to find the answer. I find this a really good way of learning new pieces of local history. The following paragraphs are the direct result of one of these questions.
I was asked if I new anything about the now demolished ‘Hexthorpe Hall’ which once stood at numbers 6 and 7 Old Hexthorpe. As I recall the inquirer wanted an image of the house and, although I haven’t yet found one, I did unearth lots of information on the owners from the census returns, much like a grazing sheep that follows the blades of grass only to find itself some time later, estranged from the rest of the herd, I found myself moving from one ‘nugget’ of information to another and before I knew it I had lost 5 hours of my day!
I did get a ‘heads-up’ from a friend that informed me that the family that lived at the Hall were called Ramsden’s but that was all the information I had to go on. I first looked at the 1901 census which listed the following people:
- Zillah Hall Roberts – Age 55 – Servant
- Isabella Parker – Age 35 – Servant
- Lillie Head – Age 24 – Servant
- Ella Gertrude Hanby – Age 23 – Servant
- Alfred Blake – Age 16 – Servant
I was quite disappointed as you can imagine, that all the heads of the household were absent. This result taught me nothing about the family. All would become clear though as to why this was the case.
I started to work my way backwards through the censuses starting with 1891, the results of which I have listed below:
- Elizabeth Ramsden (widow) – Age 81 – Head
- Sarah A Roberts – Age 56 – Servant
- Zillah H Roberts – Age 43 – Servant
- Jane S Alpin – Age 20 – Servant
- Elizabeth Ramsden (widow) – Age 71 – Head
- Ann Wriggleworth – Age – 71 Servant
- Sarah Roberts – Age – 45 Servant
- Zillah Roberts – Age – 36 Servant
- Ruth Black – Age – 21 Servant
- Jane Whaley – Age – 18 Servant
- Frederick Rowe – Age – 19 Servant
- Frank Ramsden – Age 74 – Head – Occupation Retired Capt R. Navy
- Elizabeth Ramsden – Age 61 – Wife
- + 6 Servants
- Frank Ramsden – Age 64 – Head – Occupation Retired Capt R. Navy
- Elizabeth Ramsden – Age 51 – Wife
- + 6 Servants
- Frank Ramsden – Age 54 – Head – Occupation Retired Capt R. Navy
- Elizabeth Ramsden – 41 – Wife
- + 6 Servants
On the 1841 census, I couldn’t see an entry for that address. This doesn’t mean that they were not there, it could be that they missed them out for whatever reason. So, to summarise the above in chronological order we have:
- 1851 – Frank and Elizabeth Ramsden appear at Hexthorpe Hall.
- 1861 – Frank has retired from the Royal Navy
- 1871 – The Ramsden’s are enjoying their retirement living on dividends and investments.
- 1881 – Frank had died in 1875 and so Elizabeth is widowed age 71
- 1891 – Elizabeth has reached the ripe old age of 81 and still lives at home with her servants, Zillah having been with her for over 30 years. Elizabeth dies in 1891 which is why on the 1901 census I had the disappointment of finding only the servants at the address.
- 1901 – Both Frank and Elizabeth are dead and the servants are keeping the house.
- 1911 – The Ramsden’s and their servants have gone and the census shows only one return for ‘Old Hexthorpe’, and old lady named Georgiana Butler and her family working as a ‘market Gardener’. Could this garden be the grounds of the Old Hall?
After trying to get my head around the census and trying to process the information I began to research Frank Ramsden and his career in the Royal Navy. I assumed that with his personal wealth (Hexthorpe Hall and 6 servants) he must have had a high (ish) rank in the Navy. I was right, as I found the following extract from a Naval publication some 200 years old –
Frank Ramsden was born on the 28th March 1797 and entered the Navy as a First Class Volunteer on the 19 March 1808 shortly before his 11th birthday and first served on board Tigre 74 under Captain Benjamin Hallowell. He was first employed in the Channel and afterwards in the Mediterranean, where, with the exception of a short attachment, towards the close of 1811, to the Royal William, flag-ship of Sir Roger Curtis at Spithead, he continued employed as Midshipman in the Royal George 100 and the Blake 74, each bearing the flag of the above-named officer, then Rear-Admiral Hallowell, Caledonia 120, the flag-ship of Sir Edward Pellew, and Malta 84 bearing the flag again of Rear-Admiral Hallowell, until February 1815.
In the Tigre, he united, in October 1809, in the pursuit which led to the self-destruction, near Cape Cette, of the French ships-of-the-line Robuste and Lion; and witnessed the capture and destruction, by the boats of a squadron, of several armed and other vessels in the Bay of Rosas.
In the Malta he was present at the siege of Tarragona, and in different operations on the coast of Catalonia, in 1813. After serving with Sir John Duckworth in the Impregnable 104, and again with Rear-Admiral Hallowell in the Royal Sovereign 100 and Tonnant 80, on the Plymouth and Cork stations, he was promoted on the 7th November, 1818, to Lieutenant.
His subsequent appointments were:
- 6th December, 1822
Prince Regent 120, bearing the flag of Admiral Hallowell at the Nore
- 11th March, 1823
- 23rd June, 1823
- 21st August, 1825
All the above were flag-ships of Sir George Eyre with whom he served as Signal-Lieutenant (in Spartiate and Wellesley), on the South American station, until he was advanced to his present rank as Commander on the 1st December, 1826.
Captain Ramsden was married on the 27th August, 1835, to Elizabeth, the third Daughter of the Rev. Dr. Smith, Prebendary of Dublin, by whom he has issue two sons.
So, Frank Ramsden had progressed through the ranks of the British Navy eventually earning the title of Commander. He had sailed with Lord Admiral Nelson’s right-hand man (Hallowell). He truly was an important individual!
Intrigued by the fact that he had chosen a man of the cloths’ daughter as his wife I did some research into his pedigree. I found that he was a son of the Rev. John Ramsden who himself was vicar of Arksey. Franks mother being Frances (nee Cooke), daughter of Sir George Cooke, Bart. of Wheatley.
In short then, from this simple question,………
- Dear Symeon, as secretary of the Friends of Hexthorpe Flatts Group. We are desperately trying to find out any information/pictures of the original Hexthorpe House,(not the pub) that was down what is now Dell Crescent/Bramworth Road. When the pub the Hexthorpe House was demolished, we rescued the sign and had it erected in the park The house on it looks lovely but we have no info about it. Could you help?
………. I unearthed a wealth of interesting facts that I would never have known otherwise. Is that not the best way to learn about our history and heritage?
Visit the Friends of Hexthorpe Flatts website by clicking here.
And here is a small gallery of captioned images relating to the above article.