Grid Ref: SJ 725 778
Dates: 10 Feb 1999, Nov 1999

Tabley House is a grade I listed building lying 2 miles west of Knutsford of the A 5033.

Following the death of Colonel John Leicester Warren without heirs in 1975, Tabley House was bequeathed to Manchester University. For a time it was used as a boys' school but in 1988 it was leased to Cygnet Health Care. They operate a nursing home which occupies the basement, top storey and the two adjacent wings which formerly were for the kitchens and nursery. The nursing home leased the ground floor to the Tabley House Collection Trust which displays a fine collection of furniture and pictures. There are works among others, by J. M. W. Turner, James Northcote, Sir Peter Lely, Sir Thomas Lawrence, John Opie and Henry Fuseli. The estate of 3,600 acres, included the Tabley Showground where the annual Cheshire Show is held. It was sold by Manchester University to the Crown Estates in 2007. The mansion seen today was built by John Carr of York in the Palladian style and completed in 1767. Some alterations were made by Thomas Harrison between 1808 and 1810 when the three adjacent rooms on the west side were combined to make the magnificent art gallery, said to be one of the finest rooms in the county.

A much earlier house now lies in ruins on the island in the mere. It was built about 1380 for John de Leycester. Peter Leycester (1588-1674) installed an ornate fireplace in the great hall in 1619. Peter's son, Sir Peter, the 1st baronet replaced the old chapel by a new one between 1675 and 1679 and a tower was added in 1724. It was moved to its current site near the house in the 1920s when the old hall started to collapse because of subsidence caused by brine pumping. The "Old Hall Room" seen to the right of the chapel, is now the tea-room and has some of the stained glass and the fireplace from the old hall.

Country Life Magazine published three articles on Tabley in the 1920s covering the old and new halls and they were well illustrated with black and white photographs - probably some of the best surviving images of the old hall. Tabley House has its own web site where you can see details of opening times and have a preview of some paintings.


Tabley House, Knutsford

Designed by John Carr of York for Sir Peter Byrne Leicester and built in the 1760s.

West End   Window
West elevation   Window in the Old Hall Room
Chapel   Leicester Arms
The Chapel, 10 Feb 1999   Leicester Arms in chapel window


Sir Peter Leicester

Sir Peter Leicester was a remarkable man. He studied at Brazenose College Oxford then at Greys Inn. He mastered Latin and was also proficient in Old English, Norman French and Greek. His library comprised 1300 volumes. This gave him ideal qualifications for his historical studies on the muniments of the Leicesters and neighbouring families. He also read the Domesday Book. He married in 1642, the first year of the Civil War, when he was 29. During the war he was at one time a prisoner in Oxford and in 1655 and early 1656 a prisoner at Chester. At the Restoration in 1660 he was created a Baronet and he subsequently became a Deputy Lieutenant and JP for Cheshire. His book on the history of Cheshire, including a transcript of the sections on Cheshire in the Domesday Survey, was published in 1673 and dedicated to Charles II. His chapel at Tabley was completed in 1678. He died the same year and was buried in the Lady Chapel at Great Budworth. (I am grateful to Lois Ford for this information.)

According to Sir Peter Leicester's accounts, the chapel and fittings cost £800. The following note on the foundation of the chapel has been transcribed from the Tabley muniments now kept at Cheshire County Record Office:

The Laying of Foundation Stones for the Chapel, 29 July 1675

Sir Peter Leycester Baronet did lay the first Foundation-Stone for the new Chappel at the Mannour Hall of Nether-Tabley with his own hand, on the 29th day of June in the yeare after the Nativity of Christ, MDCLXXV, commonly called Saint Peter's day; being Tuesday, about one of the clocke in the After-noone: to wit the very cornerstone on the South-East-Point of the sayd Chappell: and Elizabeth his Lady did also helpe to lay the very next stone adioninge thereto at the sayd East-end: and Robert Leycester their sonne and heire did lay the opposite corner-stone on the East-end, to wit, the Cornerstone on the very North-East-point of the sayd Chappell: there were also present at the same tyme; Elinour and Byron, daughters of the sayd Sir Peter, and also Rafe Leycester of Toft Esquire Husband to the sayd Elinour; who did all of them severally helpe to lay each one a stone.  It is situated by the Poole-side in the very South-East-Corner of the land in the Poole.

The engraving below shows the chapel and old hall as they were at the beginning of the 19th century. At that time the chapel tower had a small spire.


Old engraving


The Ancient Mansion of Sir Peter Leycester, Bart.
Engraved by J. Storer from a drawing by Sir. R. C. Hoare, Bart. From The Beauties of England and Wales
Published by Vernor and Wood, Poultry, London, 1 June 1802


The following family tree is taken in part from the one shown in the Tabley House brochure. The family traced its origins to Sir Nicholas Leycester who died in 1295. His two great grandsons were John, from whom the Leicesters of Tabley were descended and Ralph from whom the Leycesters of Toft descended, many of them called Ralph. This latter family retained the old spelling of the name.

In the following centuries the Leicesters of Tabley married into several of the neighbouring families mentioned on this site as shown below for five successive generations:

John Leycester, died 1496 married Margery, daughter of John Legh of High Legh.
Thomas Leycester, died 1526, married Margaret, daughter and co-heiress of Robert Grosvenor of Hulme
Peter Leycester, died 1577, married Alice, daughter of Sir John Holford of Holford.
Adam Leycester, died died 1581, married Dorothy, daughter of Peter Shakerley of Hulme
Peter Leycester, died 1647, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Randle Mainwaring of Over Peover and his wife Margaret, the daughter of Sir Edward Fitton of Gawsworth. (It was to mark this marriage that the fine fireplace was built in the old hall, which can now be seen in the Old Hall Room.)


The more detailed family tree following starts with Sir Peter Leicester, the son of the last named couple who used the alternative spelling of the name. It is drawn from Ormerod's History of Cheshire, Burke's Baronetage and Peerage and monumental brasses in the Chapel at Tabley House.

Footnote 1.

The Bulkeley family of Cheadle and Beaumaris traced its ancestry to Richard de Bulkelegh of Cheadle, the second son of Robert de Bulkelgh of Eaton near Davenham, who died in 1349. Thomas James Bulkeley the 7th Viscount was born 12 December 1752. His estates in Cheadle and other Cheshire lands were sold by Act of Parliament in 1765. On 26 April 1777 he married Elizabeth Harriett, the daughter and heiress of Sir George Warren of Poynton and subsequently took the name of Warren-Bulkeley. In 1784 he was created Baron Bulkeley of Beaumaris. When he died in June 1822, Thomas James Warren-Bulkeley's estates went to his uterine half brother, Sir Richard Bulkeley Williams, Bart. Sir Richard then adopted the name of Bulkeley. Elizabeth Harriett, Viscountess Bulkeley left part of her fortune to her distant cousin the 2nd Lord de Tabley, whose great great grandmother was Ann Dorothea Warren. The 2nd Lord de Tabley then changed the family name from Leicester to Warren. Subsequent generations used Leicester as an additional given name and hence the 3rd Lord was John Byrne Leicester Warren. (From Earwaker's East Cheshire Past and Present, Vol. 1, page 181)

There is an article on the Bulkeley family of Cheadle and Beaumaris during the 17th and 18th centuries in Cheshire Notes and Queries, Vol. 8, 1888, 226-9.

The following note is from History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster by Edward Baines, Esq., M.P. Vol. II, first published by Fisher and Sons, London, 1836, a new revised and improved edition edited by John Harland published by George Routledge of London and Manchester, 1870


A small township 5.5 miles north of Blackburn with an old hall.  In 1311 (4 Edw II) it was held by Roger de Clyderhou (Clitheroe) under the Lacy family who had the Earldom of Lincoln. The Lacy lands were forfeited to the crown after the rebellion led by Thomas Earl of Lancaster ended in the Battle of Borough Bridge. By 1480 Dinkley was held by Robert Morley by knight's service and in 1532 it was held by his descendant Thomas Morley.  In 1567 it was held by Roger Nowell of Read and afterwards passed to the Talbots. Dorothy, daughter and heiress of John Talbot of Salesbury married Edward Warren of Poynton and conveyed the estate to him.  Sir George Warren, KB, his son and heir, died in 1801 and his daughter and sole heiress married Thomas James, Viscount Bulkeley on 26 April 1777.  It then passed to the 2nd Lord de Tabley who sold it to Mr. Henry Ward of Blackburn about 2 years ago. (i.e. in the 1860s)

Footnote 2.

A source on the Legh of Lyme family is The House of Lyme, from its Foundation to the end of the Eighteenth Century, by Lady Newton, Heiemann, London 1917.  The family tree is shown on my Lyme page.

Peter Legh of Lyme the elder or Peter XII (1669-1744) and his wife Frances had no heirs and Peter arranged for the estate to pass to the sons of his brother, Thomas (1675-1715), who had married Henrietta Maria, the daughter of Thomas Fleetwood of Bank Hall, near Southport in Lancashire.  Henrietta Maria died in 1722.  The eldest of the nephews was Fleetwood Legh, born 11 January 1701/2.  He married Meriel Leicester on 24 November 1723 and the couple lived at Bank Hall, which Fleetwood had inherited from his mother.  The couple had one daughter Frances born 13 August 1725 who died on 10 August 1726.  Fleetwood Legh died of pleurisy on 21 January 1725/6, aged 25 leaving Meriel pregnant with a second daughter, Anne Meriel Legh, born 5 September 1726.

Meriel (Leicester) Legh, following the death of Fleetwood Legh married Sir John Byrne of Timogue in 1728.

When Peter XII died in 1744 the estate went to Fleetwood's brother Peter XIII but on his death in 1792 without surviving issue it went to the next surviving brother Ashburnham.  He was the progenitor of the later Lords Newton. There were also five sisters - Elizabeth, Margaret, Ann, Sarah and Mary. Lady Newton also edited a book Lyme Letters 1660-1760, published by Heinemann in 1925. Copies of both books are in Manchester Central Library.


Tabley House Brochure.
Ormerod's History of Cheshire, Burke's Baronetage and Peerage and monumental brasses in the Chapel at Tabley House.
Wikipedia Article


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Introduction to Cheshire Gentry

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