The Cloth Barons arrive

The Hanhams let Great Chalfield to Edward Horton who made his home there and became High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1660, Edward’s family had made their fortune locally in cloth and his father had built the charming Manor House in Broughton Gifford.

A generation later another local cloth baron, John Hall, a direct descendant of Thomas Tropenell’s granddaughter Elizabeth, paid the executors of his cousin William Hanham £5,100 for Great Chalfield in May 1673. This sum was made up of a prepayment of £1,713.10 and a final payment of £3,385.10. Remarkably the deeds and receipts of this and the previous sales have survived. When John Hall himself died in 1711 it was valued by his executors at £7,000. Again remarkably we have a complete list of the valuations for probate of all his properties. This provides further evidence for the rising prosperity of the area and for John Hall’s shrewdness as a business man. Great Chalfield’s value in 1673 is also evidence of its quick recovery in value after the war thanks to the care of it taken by the Hanhams.

Hall arms
The Hall family had dominated the cloth trade in Bradford from the late 13 th century along with the Rogers and Hortons. The Methuens, another great Bradford clothier family, arrived later. At the beginning of the century the Halls too were so wealthy that John Hall (d.1631), our subject’s grandfather, rebuilt the Hall above the family mills in Bradford, where it still stands. John Aubrey described it as “the best built house for the quality of a gentleman in Wiltshire” and wanted it included with Longleat and Wilton in an illustrated book of the finest houses in the region.
John Hall’s father, Thomas, who had died aged 62 in 1663, had been a royalist commissioner for Wiltshire in the war, and charged with pressing men into the King’s service. He was fined £660 in 1649 for his part in it. He had appealed against this in vain, saying he had acted under compulsion and had used his influence to save his neighbours from having troops quartered on them for free. There were a number of royalist garrisons to the North and East of Bradford in the war and he may well have tried to help those living near them. Even so bitterness from the war doubtless lived on and security was important making Great Chalfield an attractive acquisition.
John Hall already had a fine house in Bradford now called The Hall. His purchase of Great Chalfield Manor came ten years after he inherited the family fortune and as it turned out exactly one hundred years later his grandson, a duke, bequeathed a life interest in his estates to his notorious duchess. So Great Chalfield was bought not to live in but to be added to John Hall’s already considerable property portfolio. It doubtless suited his business well to have a tied local supply of wool, taken over from his rivals the Hortons though he himself by this time in his life was more of a gentleman than a clothier and by this date wool for cloth was mostly imported. It was leased to William Wynne and Edward Wallis within six months of its purchase and in 1679 to John Sertaine. The terms of this lease are interesting and show John Hall as a very careful man. ‘Agreed with old John Sertaine to let him Chalfield for £360 a year for seven years, I reserved the pigeon house and fishponds, timber trees and coppice wood and shroud (lopping) and timber field and huine house (swine) field not to be ploughed nor any other ground that hath not lately been ploughed. I am to pay all taxes which shall be due by parliament and he to hedge, ditch etc and keep bounds as his own charge.’ His annual tithe to the Rector of All Saints was £32. It was a wise move for the landlord to agree to pay the tax on the house, including presumably the very unpopular new chimney tax. The good will was worth it at two shillings a chimney. The house had at least a dozen at that time. John Hall was nothing if not astute. He let it again in 1684 to John Eyre. His estate was valued on his death in 1710 at £62,369.16, about half in manors and houses of note, and about half in smaller properties in and around Bradford; rented out to those who made the cloth.


Great Chalfield Manor, Great Chalfield, nr. Melksham, Wiltshire. SN12 8NH - Tel: 01225 782 239