Articles from the Thoroton Society Newsletter


Recent investigations into the origins of Wiseton Hall uncovered some interesting connections. The village of Wiseton is part of Clayworth Parish, north of Retford. Clayworth was the subject of the famous Rector's Book – a detailed account of village life kept by the Reverend William Sampson 1676-1701, often quoted in academic studies of rural life at that time. This account contains the earliest specific mentions of a Wiseton Hall although it was no doubt somewhat older. This was an early predecessor of the current Hall (built 1960s), of which no trace now remains. Later 19th century summary histories claimed that this Hall was owned at one point by the Nelthorpes of Scawby Hall (in Lincolnshire, south-east of Scunthorpe) although the link was not clear – this became a focus of enquiry.

The exact connection was determined after interrogating the will of Susanna Wawen, heiress of Wiseton Hall in 1671, that of her father-in-law, James Nelthorpe, MP for Beverley in the 1640s, an 1829 history of Beverley, published Nelthorpe pedigrees (with some errors), and a history of Brigg Grammar School – these primary sources revealed the links between various relatives and locations. The Rector’s Book contributed additional evidence of dates of changes of land ownership – in summary, around the end of the 17th century Wiseton Hall was owned by a relation of the Wawen family (the Lords of the Manor of Clayworth), and then for a time (~25 yrs) the Nelthorpe family (by marriage), before being sold to the Acklom family from Bawtry.

The new information that came to light in this investigation is that Susanna's husband, Richard Nelthorpe, son of James, was the lawyer who was declared a traitor in August 1685 by James II and then executed (by being hung, drawn and quartered) in front of Gray's Inn, London, in October 1685. There are many published accounts of the events of the previous two years that brought him to that point, and his final letters to his family were published in The Western Martyrology, J Tutchin, 1873. It has been said in some accounts that he chose to die rather than deprive his children of their inheritance by making a bribe of £10,000. William III reversed his attainder in 1689 and confiscated lands at Wiseton were returned to Susanna. It is probable that Richard never lived at Wiseton Hall, the childhood home of his wife, as his father owned property in Yorkshire (Seacroft Hall, near Leeds), although their eldest son James, may have resided there for a few years before he sold it.

Another interesting connection with Wiseton Hall occurred in the 18th century, uncovered this time from American secondary sources. The Ackloms (Acklam), Richard and his son Jonathan, owned the Hall at this time, being responsible for various phases of building and rebuilding. Jonathan was involved also in the enclosure of Wiseton (1763) and soon after that built seven farmhouses to a new model on his farms surrounding the village. His cousin, Eleanor, married Joseph Harrington, of a Yorkshire Quaker family, in 1746. He and his brother Peter had occasionally visited (a newly built?) Wiseton Hall when young; in 1739 they emigrated to Rhode Island although they returned to England at times later on. They held various official posts in the US and Peter also became a “mail-order architect” as well as a country gentleman, using agricultural methods which were new to the US. Apparently, he created designs for public buildings for free, if requested. A recent publication produced from years of research: The Buildings of Peter Harrison: Cataloguing the work of the first global architect 1716-1775, John Fitzhugh Millar, 2014 (, claims over 400 buildings are attributable to Peter Harrison, in England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, US, Caribbean, India, and elsewhere. Peter died in the US, Joseph spent his last 11 years back at Wiseton Hall, dying in 1787.

This connection opens up other lines of enquiry that are not easily answered – for example, how influential were Wiseton Hall (c1719) and the Ackloms on Peter Harrison’s architectural beginnings? Did he, or possibly Joseph, in turn, influence the style of (re)building of Wiseton Hall in 1771 (architect unknown)? Did the agricultural methods practised by Peter Harrison on Rhode Island in the 1750s influence those adopted by J. Acklom on the Wiseton Estate in the 1760s?

The revelations of this investigation have proven to me again how much there is to be uncovered through detailed focus on the historic buildings of Nottinghamshire.

Megan Doole