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Memories of The Lonely Lady
Over the years, Temple Newsam has been owned by various notable people, but one of its inhabitants did more toremodel the house and gardens than any other. Frances Shepheard
married Charles Ingram in the 18th Century and spent her life devoted to
the house. When her husband died, she found solace in de
The way we see Temple Newsam House nowadays can be attributed to the Ingram family. Sir Arthur Ingram bought the house in 1622 after it fell into disrepair. Arthur’s great-grandson Charles Ingram married Frances Sheadheard in 1758: Frances is at the heart of this story. Frances Shepheard (also widely known as Frances Gibson) was born the illegitimate daughter of London merchant Samuel Shepheard in 1734. Her mother’s name is believed to have been Gibson. Calling Frances’ father a mere merchant is somewhat of a misnomer. Samuel Shepheard and his father made their fortune through East India Company as well as the South Sea Company. Frances’ grandfather was a founding member of the East India Company, while her father was its director. Frances was an heiress of unimaginable wealth, who was not only acknowledged but also loved by her father - who remained unmarried all his life. As his only child she was named as his sole heir in his will.
It is estimated that at least £20,000 of her marriage settlement went towards paying Temple Newsam’s outstanding debts and mortgage.
For cash-poor aristocrats like Charles Ingram, money trumped parentage when it came to choosing their spouses. However, although Charles and Frances were eager to wed, a stipulation in Samuel Shepheard’s will threw a spanner in the works. Samuel Shepheard’s wishes were for his daughter to marry his close friend’s son Thomas Bromley. In addition to this, his will also stipulated that Frances would not inherit the fortune if she married an Irishman, a Scot, a peer, or the son of a peer. But Frances’ heart was set on Charles. After an extended legal dispute, Frances got her way. With the consent of her trustees, she eventually married Charles in July 1758. It is estimated that at least £20,000 of her marriage settlement went towards paying Temple Newsam’s outstanding debts and mortgage.
Frances and Charles set up house at Temple Newsam soon after. Having the love and acknowledgement of her father meant that Frances was brought up as an active member of London Society. She received the best education available to young women at the time and was accepted amongst the elite social and political circles in London. As might be expected of young, privileged, and educated women at the time, she was well-versed in household management, including accounting and financial transactions. She even had her own bank account with the London banker Drummond’s – a circumstance that was not the norm when it came to women at that time. It is understood that she brought with her the correspondence and contacts of suppliers and merchants she knew and trusted when she moved to Temple Newsam. She was determined to take over the reins of the estate even before she became its mistress.
All this paints the picture of a confident woman well aware of the worth of her own opinion. Frances engaged the services of the who’s who of 18th century British architecture, interiors, engineering and design to bring the estate up to snuff: James Wyatt, John Carr, Josiah Wedgewood and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. She and Charles had five children – all of them girls. Their most famous offspring was Isabella, Marchioness of Hertford. Frances was well regarded among her peers and later in life modelled herself into an astute political manager. By the time Charles died in 1778, one could argue that Frances had already put her mark on the house, and the estate as a whole. Frances inherited everything, not just Temple Newsam but the Ingram’s holdings in Horsham, Sussex as well.
Frances was only in her forties at the time of her husband’s death. For a short time, there seems to have been a hiatus in the frequency of remodelling projects at the house. But Frances went back to them with what could possibly be described as a passion. Between 1792 and 1796 she had the entire south wing at Temple Newsam remodelled. In 1795, Frances wrote to a confidant, “I amuse myself prodigiously, for I have attacked a huge Wing of Templenewsam, have pulled down walls as thick as the tower [of London] for the sole pleasure of building them up again & here I am now in the midst of Desolation created by my own nonsensical self.”
Part of the Leeds museum collection from 'D' -Day
Charles Ingram married Frances Shepheard in 1758 and they were together for
20 years. Image © Leeds Museums & Galleries (Temple Newsam House
Above: Burton Harrogate branch 1974
Life After Charles
This gives us a peek into her life as a widow and the lengths she went to to fill her time. She completed the project with the help of the Leeds architect William Johnson. She also engaged the services of Thomas Chippendale the younger: he designed the furniture. This remodelled wing now featured an altered Great Hall, the bones of which greet every visitor today when they enter the house. The floor above was transformed into a series of well-appointed and comfortably furnished chambers that were meant to accommodate Frances’ daughters and their children during their visits to Temple Newsam. Frances once again began entertaining socially more regularly, as well as spending more time with friends in London and in as the property in Sussex. Frances was an astute political strategist too. She promoted and ran campaigns for parliamentary candidates in various constituencies. Frances died in 1807 at the age of 73. Nevertheless, she had by this point secured her legacy for her daughters, who were set to inherit everything from her. And she sealed Temple Newsam’s legacy too.
As our attitudes towards aspects of death and dying have evolved over time, so too have our responses to grief and loneliness. Everyone responds differently, depending on their physical, emotional, social, behavioural, cultural, and spiritual disposition. Some of the ways we deal with loss include keeping in touch with close family and friends, finding creative channels to keep ourselves engaged, as well as staying active.
As she put it, Frances tried to “amuse” herself by throwing herself into the redevelopment. She was determined that she should re-enter “society”, to stave off the loneliness of widowhood. Frances Shepheard was woman of a certain era and social class, with the privileges and limitations that go hand in hand with that. Frances was undoubtedly wealthy, but that wealth didn’t spare her from experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation that are universal to us all.
Temple Newsam Today How the house and garden look in the 21st Century. Image © Leeds Museums & Galleries (Temple Newsam House)
After her husband died, Frances Shepheard threw herself into remodelling Temple Newsam. We meet 2 women who live near the grounds to gauge their reactions to the story and explain how they dealt with being widowed.
My husband died in 1996. From around 1997 I started volunteering at Temple Newsam, mainly in the farm. We’d tidy up and we used to go and help in the herb garden. The idea was so school children could come and look at it and know the different herbs. See them growing. If the place needed weeding, we’d do it. Whatever needed to be done.
There were big concerts at Temple Newsam at the time. We worked with Friends of Temple Newsam to try and stop them – the concerts were a real nuisance. When I was with the Friends of Temple Newsam, we went up on the roof. I’ve got some photographs I took, looking down on to the courtyard. It’s a marvellous view.
When it started off, there was 3 or 4 of us who used to help. But as we’ve got older, we’ve had to pack it in. It started to get a bit too much. I finished when I was 80. I’m 90 now. I grew up in East End Park. We used to come to Temple Newsam as children. We’d walk up. I’m sure, when I was a kiddie, there was an armouryin the House. Swords and guns and everything. I think that’s gone now. I married and came up to Whitkirk. And I haven’t moved very far since then! We married in 1956. A long time ago!
My husband died a year ago, the day after St Patrick’s Day. I’m just getting used to it. I’ve started coming to social groups and meeting people again – people who went to the WI, who I used to work with years ago. But I would like to do something a bit more – maybe volunteering. When you’re older you can’t do a lot of physical things, but you want to help in some way and there’s things you can do.
I remember the pit up at Temple Newsam. Open cast mining. My stepmother worked at the canteen. The miners used to get the Paddy Train. They’d come up from East End Park on the train to the pit. They had to walk through the grounds to the pit. It was a bit eerie because there was no light – with it being the war. And my stepmother worked in the canteen.
I moved to Leeds aged 11, when my dad re- married. We used to walk to Temple Newsam up by the stream, the Wykebeck. We’d walk on what we called “the Red Road”. We’d cut through where the golf course was. There was a sports field, a running track.
We used to go up to Temple Newsam a lot with the dementia group. My husband had dementia before he died. We’d get the costumes out and try them on. We had a make-up session there too! Using crushed beetles. Unfortunately, most of the people in the group with dementia have died now. But we still meet up, the widows. We had such lovely times with them all. We were at Temple Newsam a lot. Did walks up in the grounds.
My husband David was a marble mason and he did some work at Temple Newsam. They moved the chapel at one point and he worked on the altar. I used to take my grandchildren too. We’d walk up, go through the woods. They did a thing where you could sponsor a tree. They call it Pegasus Wood.
We knew a lady who was born at the House. They called her Flo. She’s dead now. She used to tell some stories! Talking about living there as a young girl. She was a character!
We spoke to Jean and Anne at a coffee morning run by Cross Gates Good Neighbours Scheme. Thanks to Marion Darlow for help with this article.
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