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See also [Gisburne Park Photographs][Gisburne Park][Ribblesdales]

Articles by Dorothy Taylor on the later Ribblesdales


Laura Lister (Lady Lovat)1892-1965


The Problems of Finding a Wife - if you are Destined to Become the 2nd Baron Ribblesdale.

The Life of Emma, Lady Ribblesdale 1833 - 1911

Diana (nee Lister) Countess of Westmoreland 1893 - 1983 - another interesting member of the Ribblesdale Family.



Beatrice Lister of Gisburne Park, daughter of Thomas Lister and sister of the first Lord Ribblesdale, lived with her widowed mother at Marshfield, a house owned by the Listers, at Giggleswick. She continued to live there after her mother's death in 1774 until her marriage to John Parker of Browsholme in 1778. They continued to live at Marshfield for sixteen years, where their eight sons were born, Thomas Lister Parker being the eldest of the family. He grew up there, was educated at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School under the distinguished master Rev. Thomas Wilson, and then entered Christ College, Cambridge, his fathers old college. In 1794 John Parker succeeded to Browsholme, so the family moved to live there, but on the death of his father three years later, Thomas Lister Parker inherited Browsholme, which remained his much loved home for very many years.

A gentleman of great literary and historical taste, he was a patron of the English artists of his day - Turner, Romney, Northcote - many of whose paintings are at Browsholme Hall, including two portraits of Thomas Lister Parker by Northcote, a pupil of Reynolds. He was also a keen antiquarian, lover of fine furniture, and had an elegant London house in South Audley Street, where he moved in high society. In 1801 and 1802 he made a grand tour of Italy, France and Russia, bought many works of art, collected furniture, and was elected FSA in 1801.

He became High Sherrif of Lancashire in 1804 and also held the office, hereditary in his family for many generations, of "Bow-bearer of the Forest of Bowland". He remained a bachelor and when residing in the country at Browsholme, his circle of friends included Charles Townley, the historian Dr Thomas Whitaker, Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall, Otley and many other distinguished families in the North of England with whom he exchanged regular visits, including, of course, Gisburne Park.

Landscape gardening and forestry were other interests, so he planted large acreage of trees and spent huge sums of money laying out the grounds at Browsholme. Having inherited a Tudor house, he engaged the architect Jeffrey Wyatt to rebuild the west wing, producing a beautiful formal drawing room in 1805, and in 1807 a single- storey extension, used as a portrait gallery and dining room, with lovely Gillow mahogany furniture. A splendid gateway was built and an arch was brought from Ingleton Hall, the home of his ancestors.

In 1824, having grossly overspent on both the house and grounds, he was obliged to sell Browsholme Estate and Hall to his cousin, Thomas Parker of Alkincoates (Colne) though he always retained a great affection for it. From this time, he seems to have led a nomadic existence, staying in the great houses of his friends. He gradually withdrew from society and chiefly resided at the Star Inn in Deansgate, Manchester, from where he continued his literary pursuits, with fine arts still occupying his attention, in spite of declining health. In 1857 he was carried in a chair round the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition, full of enthusiasm, and still retaining his wonderful memory of the collection and details of the paintings. He died, unmarried, on 2nd March 1858 and was buried in the family vault in Waddington Church.

Dorothy Taylor

Laura Lister (Lady Lovat)1892-1965

Fourth child of Lord Ribblesdale and his wife Charlotte, Laura spent her childhood at Gisburne Park, along with her brother Charles, five years her senior, and her sister Diana who was two years younger. Charles left to pursue his education at Eton, and later Balliol College, Oxford, so the two little girls ("the Dolls") grew up very close to each other and this continued throughout their lives. As their mother's health was always a source of great anxiety, they were joined in country activities by their father, elder sister Barbara and enjoyed visits from their grandmother, Emma, Lady Ribblesdale. During a visit in 1899 she wrote in her diary: "Laura has the making of a lovely grand character, expressed by a beautiful countenance which will grow with her, and she now has a lovely face". This we can see reflected in Sargent's portrait of her in 1896.

In the autumn of 1906, Diana and Laura were taken by their mother to Munich for their education and were joined at Christmas by Lord Ribblesdale and Charles, before all returning home together to Gisburn. Introduced into London society circles, Laura became engaged in 1910 to Simon, Lord Lovat, of Clan Fraser. A grand gentleman of ancient Scottisb lineage, and a Roman Catholic, Laura's engagement created much interest in Gisburn, as she was taken to Scotland to visit his home, Beaufort Castle, and it was assumed that she would join his church. During this visit, she wrote to her grandmother: "I must write and tell you about my future home. An enormous red sandstone house...impressive and a wonderful position with the lovely river Beauly below it and a glorious view of distant moors and woods beyond...Simon is worshipped and adored up here. The people are all very nice, many only speaking Gaelic which sounds strange and remote. Simon has given me some lovely old family jewels...two lovely ear-rings, a pendant and a necklace." Twenty years her senior, Lord Lovat had raised his own regiment of Lovat Scouts to fight the Boer War and he returned with a distinguished war record.

The wedding was fixed for 15th October 1910, but her grandmother was disappointed not to be well enough to attend. She writes "It is difficult to realize that she is no longer in our church...yet surely the difference is not sufficient to separate her from us. May she come into the gradual teaching and guidance of what is pure, true and of good report."

For a lady who felt deeply about religion, this shows great love and affection and a very unprejudiced view. The wedding took place at London's Farm St Church, and Laura (aged 18) was driven there, with Lord Ribblesdale, in an open carriage, as a motor was considered out of place for the occasion.

The reception was held at 10 Downing St, lent by her Aunt Margot Asquith and the Prime Minister. Then away she went to Beaufort Castle! Sadly, the following year her mother died in May and her grandmother in July, just a few days before the birth of her great-grandson, Simon Lovat.

Two of her five children were born at the outbreak of the First World War, which had such a devastating effect on her generation. Her sister Diana's husband, and her husbands brother, both died in the first few weeks of the war. Aged 43 in 1914, Lord Lovat was at first not permitted to join the fighting and Laura felt guilty that she seemed to be doing so little. But this ended when her husband, by dropping rank from Brigadier to Colonel, was (delighted) to go to the front, and she wrote "Simon leaves in a week...I feel despair. But in this cruel hell of a war no-one must cry before they are hurt." Without him, Laura, melancholy, rented houses in the South for herself, children and staff, to be more accessible than in the far North for reunions on his leaves. "One wonders how one can bear one's own husband going out, when everybody we know seems to have been killed." Her brother Charles died in the Dardanelles and is buried on the Aegean Island.

But Simon Lovat survived and life was resumed at Beaufort Castle. Laura, a dazzling beauty, tall and graceful, was a great benefactress of the Scottish Highlands, introduced a district nursing scheme, and was a leading light of Roman Catholicism. Renowned for her taste in homes and gardens, passionate by nature, she talked and laughed a lot, and pursued her intellectual interests. But Lord Lovat died at a race-meeting in 1933 and their youngest child, Rose died in her early teens in 1940. Laura sank into depression and became a semi-invalid, living in an air of ruined grandeur, but respected and admired by those who served her. She died in 1965.

Dorothy Taylor.



The spectacular film of this title has re-awakened great public interest in the events it portrays, of the fateful night in April 1912, when that great ship sank in the Atlantic with the loss of over 1500 lives. Amongst the many Americans lost, probably one of the best-known and repuatedly the wealthiest, was Col. John Jacob Astor, whose widow later became the last Lady Ribblesdale. Mary Ava Pilling was born in 1869, daughter of Edward Pilling a Philadelphia millionaire, and married John Jacob Astor in 1891. She was a great beauty, renowned for her clothes, who became a leader of New York society and the centre of lavish entertainment and hospitality. But the marriage was dissolved and she eventually received a divorce settlement of £50,000 per year. Soon she came to live in London in a magnificent mansion in Grosvenor Square, where she had a rare collection of Louis XVI furniture and many costly jewels. She became a prominent member of London society and here met Thomas, 4th Baron Ribblesdale, who at the age of 64 was still a handsome, aristocratic-looking gentleman. He had been left a widower, on the death of his wife Charlotte, in 191 1. They were married at St. Mary's Church, Bryanston Square, in 1919, and perhaps there is some truth in the feeling of people at the time, that he married for money and she for the title. Or maybe this is a rather unkind comment on a gentleman who had lost both his sons on active service and was a deeply saddened man. After a honeymoon at Gisburne Park, with a celebration in the village to enable everyone to meet the bride, it seems that she rarely, if ever, visited Gisburn again. She preferred the London life and continental travel to the life of a country estate. The grand house in Grosvenor Square became the couple's home, where Lord Ribblesdale died in 1925,and from where his body began its long journey back home, by train to Hellifield station. If I may here be permitted a personal note, I would add that as a young man my own father was responsible for meeting this train, and safely conveying the body of his lordship by horse-drawn carriage to Gisburn Park, ready for the funeral and final interment in the family vault. Lady Ribblesdale later moved back to New York, where she was re-admitted to U.S. citizenship in 1940 and where she spent the rest of her life. She died in 1958 aged 89, leaving a fortune of $1 million in trust for her four grandchildren. So ended the life of this, the last Lady Ribblesdale.


The Problems of Finding a Wife - if you are Destined to Become the 2nd Baron Ribblesdale. 

Following an education at Westminster School, in common with other young country gentlemen of the early 19th century, the Rt. Hon. Thomas Lister enjoyed London life and society, moving in the artistic circles of the day. He was able to study painting, develop his own talent, attend theatres, and become a cultivated young man, as far as his income would allow. But, as he wrote to his sister: “I have thoughts of quitting London, for it is misery without a horse ……….my spirits are wretchedly bad, and I am reduced to a walking skeleton”. Of course, horses were always a high priority for the Ribblesdales, but an expensive one, especially in London. Amongst his circle of friends was Thomas Lister Parker, his cousin of Browsholme Hall, who was a great lover of the arts, a patron of the English artists of the day, and a noted collector of beautiful furniture and pictures, with which he enhanced Browsholme.

One hoped-for outcome of life in London society was finding a suitable wife, and Thomas Lister's letter to his father at Gisburne Park, in the years 1815-17, give an interesting and somewhat amusing insight into this problem. He writes: “Both yourself and my mother are anxious I should marry ………. I see the reasonableness of it myself and if I could only find a person who had money and who was tolerably agreeable I should not hesitate a moment in doing that which seems to be the wish of us all ……….. I think money could be borrowed so as to get through the winter, which would give me an opportunity of looking seriously about me, for this I have not yet done.” He wants to make his parents comfortable, “and when by doing this I stand a good chance of making myself so, I should be out of my reason not to try. The times are certainly alarming and without some added income I fear we cannot go on much longer, comfortably or uncomfortably.”

So young Thomas begins to look around and in the Spring of 1817, in letters to his parents at Gisburne, he records his reactions to some of the eligible young ladies he meets. In a letter to his father: “Lady D. (wife of Sir Humphrey Davy) is going to bring out a niece who has an immense fortune - so I must have a peep at her if I can.” A few weeks later he “has no great fortune to be compared to Miss W.” and has made a fool of himself in not taking more advantage of the opportunity thrown in his way. “If you think my living here till her (Miss W.'s) return is money thrown away, I will go into Staffs. or return home. My money is now growing into very little compass.” One week later: “a very handsome girl and a large fortune of the name of Hankey dined with us, but she is as proud as Lucifer.” In the same letter he mentions how his friend is surprised at his folly over Miss W., but writes: “I fear her fortune is not as large as it should be and her friends and relations not the most amiable in the world - but there must be some objections to all women ……… there is little happiness in this life …”.

Although he said that he had no serious intention of proposing to Miss W., just two weeks later he writes: “setting fortune aside Miss W. is the only woman I have seen as yet that I would willingly marry - in other respects neither Miss Hankey nor Miss Scrope will have above £10,000, nor would I call either of them my wife if she had £100,000”! “Miss Scrope is certainly a very nice girl and would enjoy Gisburne and Malham a great deal more than Miss Wrighton, but she is not so steady and her affections are certainly placed on another ….. however if I fail in my first attack I can try my luck in a second venture.” Then: “Miss Scrope a good match? Father no money and property goes back to his wife. So that won't do!” And finally: “no tidings of Miss W.. I fear my golden dreams are over. She is in Venice and Rome.”

Having no success with any of these ladies, it was many years before Thomas Lister married his second cousin, Adelaide Lister, in 1826, having succeeded to the Barony earlier the same year. She bore him a son and three daughters, but sadly Lord Ribblesdale died in 1832 at the age of 42. His son was only in his 5th year and therefore became the youngest peer of the realm, and his mother, junior of the widow peeresses.


The Life of Emma, Lady Ribblesdale 1833 - 1911, whose commemorative Tablet is in the Ribblesdale Chapel.

In 1853 Rt.Hon. Thomas Lister, 3rd Baron Ribblesdale, married (on her 20 th birthday) Emma Mure of Caldwell House, Ayrshire, a fine house looking out to Arran. Her family were ardent Presbyterians, keenly interested in politics, letters, and religion, and her father became a notable Greek scholar. This was the cultured background in which Emma grew up.

The early years of the marriage were spent in and around London in rented houses, as they could not afford to live at Gisburne Park. Thomas was already in financial difficulties, due to his passion for racing on a large scale, and he was a heavy better. In 1851 he had sold the Malham estate to Walter Morrison and whilst much saddened by this, he never complained of the results of his so-called "mistakes". As a result of all this, the decision was made to live abroad, a solution often adopted by families in financial difficulties, so they settled in Fontainebleau. Lady Ribblesdale and her five children lived a quiet country life, until the sons went to England for their education, and Lord Ribblesdale spent his time travelling and racing! He owned some fine horses, including Flambeau, which was later raffled at a bazaar in aid of the organ for Gisburn Church! But life in Fontainebleau came to a sudden end in 1870 when the Prussians invaded, Paris was besieged, and the English had to leave quickly.

Back in England, the family settled in Tunbridge Wells, where they were regular Church-goers, discussing the sermons at length over lunch. "One fixed one's eyes on the pulpit and preacher" and watched him intently, but "a sermon like a race-horse, should finish strongly"! By 1873 Lord Ribblesdale was again abroad and after a stay at Caldwell house, at the invitation of her brother, Lady Ribblesdale took a house in London, along with her daughters, and where she could be nearer to her sons, who were pursuing their careers, the eldest having joined the Rifle Brigade. But Lord Ribblesdale's health was causing concern and whilst staying with her Uncle, Lord Mure, in Bournemouth, she received news of his sudden death in Switzerland, on 25th August 1876. So began many years of widowhood.

The following spring Lady Ribblesdale came to Gisburn, where her son gave her the use of the Dower House, her first real home since her marriage, and where she settled and lived happily for seventeen years. Children and grandchildren visited frequently and Gisburn gave her peace and pleasure. She loved the natural surroundings, the river, the Church, and she held classes regularly for the boys and girls of the village. Christmases were a special joy, with a tree in her home, and a tea for the sixteen boys of her class whom she had taught twice a week since June. Renowned for her beauty and radiant smile, she was a much-loved lady.

During this period she resumed her travels, re-visiting Italy, where her father had taken her as a girl, and she made visits to London, to the House of Lords to hear her son speak, and her daughters were presented at Court. Her younger sons, Reggy and Martin, had joined the Diplomatic Service and she corresponded regularly with them. Martin was in Ceylon and later Malaya, and Reggy held posts in many European capitals, where she visited him- Paris, Berlin, Athens, Copenhagen. They spent their leave with her, and because of this, she decided reluctantly, in 1894, to give up her home in Gisburn and take a house in London, which would be more accessible for them. But in 1895 Lord Ribblesdale gained possession of the Park, so she was able to visit and maintain her contacts. At Easter 1906 she wrote in her diary: "The Church here is always a pleasure to me, full of spring flowers" and in the summer of 1909 she came to Gisburn for the last time. Her health was not good and she wrote: "My last Sunday here and on all three I have never entered the Church I love. To-day my grandson (Charles) reads the lessons". She faded gently and died 5th July 1911. Having left a written wish not to be buried in the vault, but "in some dry sunny spot chosen by my children", they decided on St Marylebone cemetery, East Finchley (near a relative) "on high ground....where birds sing and flowers bloom".


Diana (nee Lister) Countess of Westmoreland 1893 - 1983 - another interesting member of the Ribblesdale Family.

Youngest of the five children of Thomas, 4th Lord Ribblesdale, and his wife Charlotte, Diana was born on 7th May 1893 at Ascot, where her father as Master of the Royal Buckhounds, was fulfilling his duties at Royal Ascot. Much of her childhood was spent at Gisburne Park with her brothers and sisters, though her brothers were educated at Eton and she scarcely knew her elder brother, Thomas, as he joined the army when she was four, and after surviving the Boer War, was killed in Somaliland when she was eleven. The following year (1905) her elder sister, Barbara, married Matthew Wilson of Eshton Hall, her brother's great friend. Her younger brother, Charles, was six years her senior and they were very fond of each other, though closest to her was her sister Laura, just two years older. The two little girls grew up together, were pretty, much admired, nicknamed " The Dolls ", and maintained a very close relationship throughout their lives. Sadly during their childhood their mother suffered from tuberculosis, so to avoid contagion she cut herself off from the family and spent much time in coastal places and in Switzerland. So they had sad memories of her and she died in 1911.

In 1913, aged 20, Diana married Percy Wyndham of the Coldstream Guards, a member of the notable family whose large house "Clouds" in Wiltshire was the meeting place for the "Souls", a group (including the Ribblesdales) of aristocrats with common intellectual interests. This seemed a very suitable match, but on the outbreak of The Great War, Percy went to France with the Expeditionary Force and fell in action in September 1914, after only seventeen months of marriage. Diana then trained as a nurse and went to France to nurse the wounded, undaunted by danger. Meanwhile, her brother Charles, after a brilliant Oxford career, left the Diplomatic service to join the Royal naval brigade and headed for the Dardenelles. After being repeatedly wounded, he died aboard a hospital ship in May 1915, a terrible blow for the family.

In 1918, Diana married Arthur Cappel, an Englishman living in Paris, heir to an industrial empire, he was a wealthy, intellectual, a dashing sportsman, and as he was a Roman Catholic, Diana joined this church. They seemed rather incompatible, but their first daughter was born in 1920 and later that year Cappel was killed in his car. After his death, a second daughter was born and the marriage had merely lasted two years. So at the age of 27, Diana had lost her mother, both her brothers, and two husbands, a catalogue of bereavements almost unbelievable. In bearing all this grief she was supported by her sister Laura, and father, Lord Ribblesdale. Her great strength of character, and above all that outstanding Ribblesdale characteristic:- courage - enabled her to face the future.

Diana inherited a fortune from Arthur Capel, so she rented a fashionable London house and took the tenancy of Lyegrove, a large house near Badminton in Gloucestershire.

In 1923, at the age of 30, she married Vere Fane, 14th Earl of Westmoreland, who was good-looking , charming, well-off and a keen sportsman, riding and training horses.  Diana was wealthy and they decided to live at Lyegrove, which they bought from the Beaufort estate, had major work done on it, and developed the garden, which became Diana's great love and which she made famous.  During the first ten years, their three children were born and life was very good.  They enjoyed hunting in winter, the summer in London for the social season, and money enabled them to lead a life of leisure, with a large staff to maintain house and gardens.  

But in the mid- 1930's, life took a different turn.  The Earl got pneumonia, fought for his life, and although he survived, his health was badly affected and this caused great problems.  He gambled, became addicted to alcohol and understandably the marriage relationship was strained.  In addition to this, they discovered that their solicitor (a trusted advisor and friend !) had embezzled a third of Diana's fortune!  Although still rich, maintaining Lyegrove became a problem and for the rest of her life Diana worried over finance and the fear of having to leave her home. 

Then came the war (1939).  All the staff left but this reduced the bills and Diana was able to save money.  Surprisingly, she enjoyed her altered circumstances and showed herself to be both capable and independent.  Her husband was recalled to the Navy, (though non-combatant because of his age) but was soon invalided out of service and returned to a much changed home.  He could not adapt to the reduced circumstances and grew very disconsolate, as the wartime restrictions and lack of cash prevented him from doing almost all he enjoyed.  In trying to rise above it, he continued his betting, drank and smoked more, and life for them both became extremely difficult.  However, Diana nursed him until he died in 1948, when they were both 55 years of age, after 25 years of marriage.   

Then followed long years of widowhood and the great problem of what to do about Lyegrove, which was much too big and expensive and everyone advised her to leave. 

But having lost three husbands and suffered much stress, she shrank back from the upheaval and heartbreak of moving and stayed, though she withdrew from the social scene and settled into a quiet, peaceful routine of gardening, needlework and letterwriting.   

Most rooms were empty except for the visits of her children, all now with their own homes,-two living nearby.  Eventually she regained her sense of humour, and stoicism, and began to entertain a great mixture of visitors to her house and garden. 

In her 80's, health problems and disablement crept up, and she lived mainly in one downstairs room of her cold, draughty house.  She drew comfort from her religion, remaining a good Roman Catholic to the end of her life, as were her two elder children of their Catholic father. (Her other three children were Protestants, following their father.)  All of them supported her through those last difficult years and when, amazingly, she reached the age of 90, she thoroughly enjoyed the party given by her son.  But she soon declined, lost the will to live, and died peacefully in her sleep at Lyegrove in November 1983.  After her funeral, in the Roman Catholic church at Chipping Sodbury, she was driven past the entrances of her beloved Lyegrove and was buried with her husband, in Little Badminton churchyard.  

Dorothy Taylor.


See also [Gisburne Park Photographs][Gisburne Park][Ribblesdales]