Later Barons Delamere of Vale Royal


Vale Royal was founded as a Cistercian house by the future Edward I (1272-1307) who planned to make it the grandest monastery in England. It is said that Edward, while still a prince was in danger of being shipwrecked and swore he would found an abbey if saved. Edward had initially founded an abbey on a royal estate at Darnhall in 1269 with monks who came from Dore Abbey in Herefordshire. Later the house was moved a few miles north to Vale Royal. Darnhall was retained as a grange and park. Edward laid the foundation stone for Vale Royal in 1277 and attended the consecration in 1283. Building work lasted for more than 50 years. The monks moved into the abbey from temporary premises in 1330 but even in 1336 the church was said to be incomplete having no roof or glass and already there was mention that the rents from the abbey land were insufficient for this work or for building monastic quarters in similar style. The Black Death in the 1340s almost certainly delayed work and funding. The Black Prince supported the abbey in 1353 but in 1360 the nave was blown down in a storm. The subsequent history of the abbey was littered with episodes of discord and disgrace.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the abbey and lands came into the hands of the Holford family. An Elizabethan house was built on the site in the late 16th and early 17th centuries but replaced in 1833 by a new house designed by Edward Blore. A south wing was added in 1861 by John Douglas, a local architect. There is now little evidence of the great abbey and the house has been turned into a golf club.

The nearby village of Whitegate is named after the white stone gate to the abbey grounds. The St. Mary's parish church at Whitegate has interior features from the 14th century. It was remodelled in 1728 and between 1874 and 1875 the 2nd Lord Delamere commissioned Douglas to restore it. It has wooden shingles on the spire.

The Cholmondeleys of Vale Royal are related to the Holfords of Holford Hall as described below. The tree starts with Sir Hugh Cholmondeley and his wife, Mary Holford, so as to show the relationship with other branches of the Cholmondeley family that arose from this union. Hugh's fourth son, Thomas was the ancestor of the Cholmondeleys of Vale Royal. Sir Hugh is sometimes mentioned as Sir Hugh the younger; his father, Sir Hugh the elder he died in 1596. The effigy of Sir Hugh the elder and his wife is shown on the Malpas page. (Sources Earwaker and Sir Peter Leicester with additional notes on the 20th century from Wikipaedia, New York Times, Daily Mail and Times websites)

Details of the Cholmondeleys of Cholmondeley are shown on a separate page.

Note on the 20th Century

Hugh Cholmondeley, the 3rd Baron Delamere (1870-1931) became the owner of a very large farming estate in Kenya's highlands in 1903. His son, Thomas Pitt Hamilton Cholmondeley the 4th Baron, was the leading light in the small circle of rich Kenyan landowners who enjoyed a lavish and decadent lifestyle of drink, drugs and wife-swapping described in the book and film 'White Mischief'. The book relates the story of Josslyn Victor Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll. He was shot dead and the husband of his most recent conquest, Diana, Lady Delves Broughton, was brought to trial. Sir Jock Delves Broughton was acquitted through lack of evidence and returned to England. However, he committed suicide by an overdose of morphine in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool shortly afterwards. It was not until 66 years later that evidence finally emerged that he was the killer.

Lady Delves Broughton was born Diana Caldwell in Hove, Sussex, in 1913. Her first marriage was to Vernon Motion. In 1940, she married Sir Henry Delves Broughton in Durban and they moved to Kenya. She was married from 1943 to 1955 to Gilbert Colvile, another Kenyan rancher and finally, in 1955, she married Thomas Pitt Hamilton Cholmondeley, the 4th Lord Delamere.

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