About Dunham Massey

History of Dunham Massey and the Massey Family from
the History of Cheshire by Sir Peter Leycester

Hamon I Massey was born circa 1056 in La Fert-Mac, Orne, Normandy, France to William, Vicomte de la Ferte-Mace (c1034) and Unknown de Conteville (c1035) and died circa 1101 England, United Kingdom of unspecified causes. He married Margaret de Sacie (c1077).

The first Hamon de Massey was the owner of the manors of Agden, Baguley, Bowdon, Dunham, Hale and Little Bollington after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, taking over from the Saxon thegn Aelfward according to the Domesday Book. His probable birthplace was La Fert-Mac or Fert de La Mac in Normandy.

The name of Hamon de Massey was passed on to his descendants for several generations. There are several different ways of spelling the name, including "de Masci", "de Mace", "de Macei", "de Mascy", "de Massy" and "de Massie". In 1085 the Masseys held nine lordships in Chesire.

Hamon de Mascy is thought to have been the illegitimate, or "natural" son of William de La Ferte, viscount of the powerful Belleme (Bellamy) family of Normandy. The seat of his holdings was the town of La Ferte Mace (fur-tee ma-cee) located in the present day Orne district. William's oldest son (legitimate) was Baron Mathieu de La Ferte Mace. His youngest (legitimate) was Hugue de Macey. All three sons were present at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and as a result were given land grants in England. At Hastings, Mathieu's rank was Baron, Hugue's rank was knight, and Hamo served as Mathieu's squire. Mathieu would not live to enjoy his English possessions, as shortly after Hastings he was killed in battle in Shropshire. Hamo received his grants in Chesire and founded the Mascy (Massey) family. The seat of his holdings was the village of Dunham where his family lived at Dunham Massey Hall. His title was Baron de Dunham and his descendants would continue to live at Dunham Massey Hall until 1409 when Sir Robert Booth, son of Sir John Booth, Lord of Barton, inherited most of the Massey lands upon his marriage to Dulcia Venables, daughter of Sir William de Venables and Joan de Venables.

Dunham Massey Hall at the time the Masseys lived in it was a three winged manor in the shape of a squared off "U" surrounded by a moat. The extensive grounds outside the moat contained a deer park, orchards, a river and fishing ponds. Later owners made many changes and it bears little resemblance to the original Massey homestead. It now belongs to the British National Trust and is open to the public as museum. It is located four miles southwest of Altrincham, a suburb of Manchester.

Proerties obtained by Hamon I in addition the the house in Chester and land in the Wirrall peninsula were Ullerton or Owlarton located approximately two miles south-southeast from the town of Knutsford. Going northwest to the Mersey River, Northeast to Bramhall or Bromhale, which is those days would have been two miles Southwest from Stockport, thence below Stockport to the Mersey River. With these two lines denoting the Southeast and Southwest boundaries and the Mersey River being the northern boundary of an area having a triangular shape. At about the midway point of the northern boundary on the Mersey River would be the river crossing to the City of Manchester.

This probably marks the area with the greatest holdings of the Barons de Mascy in Cheshire. With these lands Hamon de Mascy had lesser Lords who held portions thereof for him or under his "right". Examples would be Adae de Carrington and Alano de Tatton. Both constituted Estates granted to Hamon.

In 1092 King William Rufus was a guest at the Court of Hugh Lupus in Chester. At least two of his Barons attended the King, Hamon de Mascy and William Venables. They along with their entourage of adherents and servants of Hamon's, accompanied the King on a hunting expedition in the Wirrall Peninsula. This probably took place on lands which had been set aside as a hunting preserve of the King and treated as his possession, which had not been the subject of a grant, not even to Earl Hugh Lupus. No doubt it was a consequence of some occurrence on this hunting expedition that a new estate was given to Hamon I, in fee of Hugh Lupus.

Pontington, the area which is called today the village of Puddington was granted by the King himself, so that thereafter the de Mascy Cheshire Barons held it in fee of the King rather than in fee of the Earl. For that reason Pontington was in later years especially prized. One can only speculate why King William Rufus made this generous grant. However, as soon as the hunting party returned to Hugh Lupus' Castle at Chester, Hamon sought out a scrivener, possibly a Monk whose duties were appropriate to the purpose of recording as follows:

"I, William, King of England do give unto Mascy all my right, interest and title to the hop and hopland (valley land) from me and mine with bow and arrow, when I shoot upon yerrow (the place), and in witness to the sooth (action or statement) I seal with my wang tooth."

Inscribed as witness was William Venables "fratre suo". In the consideration given to the first Hamon de Mascy it should be remembered that he was a part of the court and governing body of nobles in Cheshire at a time when it was a county Palatinate under Earl Hugh Lupus. What this means is that it's rule was like that of a country under martial law. At least Earl Hugh Lupus was not hampered by either King William the Conqueror or King William Rufus and he reigned in Cheshire as King. The Barons and their Lords were almost constantly put to defend against the Welsh on Cheshire's western border and to maintain control over the Saxons who made up the bulk of the population.

Hamon Massey, the first Baron of Dunham-Massy, held the towns of Dunham, Bowden, Hale, Ashley and half of Owlerton in Bucklow Hundred, under Hugh Lupus, Earl of Cheshire in the reign of William the Conqueror. All of which one Edward held formerly, as appears by Domesday Book. So it appears this Edward was dispossessed of his right therein and these lands given to Hamon by Hugh Lupus. Hamon also had land in Maxfield Hundred, Bromhale and Puddington in Wirrall Hundred and other places at the same time.

The History of The Dunham Massey Estate
By David Ross, Editor of Britain Express.

The Dunham estate was granted to the Massey family shortly after the Norman Conquest. The estate passed down through the female line of the Massey family until 1453, when the Booth family acquired the estate through marriage. The Booths were about as posh as posh could get in 15th century Cheshire, producing 2 Mayors of Chester, a Bishop of Exeter, and an Archbishop of York.

There was a moated medieval manor house here when the Booths got their hands on Dunham Massey, but in the late 16th century this was rebuilt by Sir George Booth. Booth's grandson, also named George, raised an army in 1659 to support the Royalist cause.

The revolt failed, and Booth landed in the Tower of London. The following year, however, saw the Restoration of the Monarchy, and the new king, Charles II, rewarded Booth with a peerage, making him Lord Delamere.

That did not stop Booth from supporting the Duke of Monmouth's Rebellion two decades later. Lord Delamere entertained Monmouth at Dunham Massey, when 'the rabble' were allowed to come inside the house to view the Duke, and each was given a blue ribbon to signify their support for Monmouth's cause.

Lord Delamere died in 1684, but his son was deemed suspect and brought to trial before the House of Lords for high treason, following Monmouth's execution. He was acquitted, and just 2 years later raised troops to support William of Orange. William rewarded him with the title, Earl of Warrington.

In the 1770s the 2nd Earl of Warrington completely remodelled the house, giving it an elegant Georgian facade of red brick and filling the interiors with his collection of silver and porcelain. Most of the silver came from Huguenot silversmiths, which he patronised partly due to his strong Protestant inclinations.

The 2nd Earl also laid out the extensive parkland around the house. The money to make all these improvements to Dunham Massey came from an advantageous marriage to the daughter of a wealthy London merchant.

Though the new Countess brought money to the union, the marriage itself was a disaster. The couple fell out so badly that they would not speak to each other, and lived in the house as strangers. So bad did the marriage become that the Earl wrote a pamphlet advocating divorce on the grounds of 'incompatibility of temper'.

And thus the house remained until the Edwardian period, when the 9th Earl of Stamford added an imposing entrance centrepiece on the south front, made of stone, which gives the earlier Georgian facade a rather peculiar look. The 9th Earl also redecorated many of the state rooms in the Edwardian style.

Dunham Massey is built around two courtyards, one cobbled and the other centred around a fountain and informal garden. Tours of the interior take visitors through the ranges around the main court, with the highlight being the library.

A crucifix by Grinling Gibbons hangs above the mantlepiece, and models of the heavens stand beside the bookshelves. In the Tudor long gallery is Dunham Massey's most prized painting, Mars, Venus, and Cupid with Saturn as Time, by Guercino.

Interest is not confined to the sumptuous showrooms; the servant's quarters have been restored to provide a glimpse of life below stairs.

The house is set in attractive gardens of special interest to keen plantsmen. An orangery shares space with fine old trees and planted borders, a Victorian bark house and well house. The deer park surrounding the house and gardens contain lovely walks beside ponds. Deer wander the grounds and visitors can get quite close to them.

In the 18th Century, they used to say about Cheshire : "the tree of hospitality is seldom out of blossom."