Richard Thomas Pulteney and his son Arthur Wyckham were rectors of this parish for 66 years. After the death of Arthur Wyckham his sister Beatrice Lascelles lived in Ashley at the house we now know as Ashley Court for about 29 years. Thus the Pulteney dynasty was in Ashley in one guise or another for over 90 years from the heyday of the mid-Victorian times to a depressed Britain of post WWII days.
The Pulteney family’s association with Ashley began in 1837 when Richard’s father, John Pulteney, purchased the Rectory from the then Rector, Richard Farrer. At that time Richard was a curate in Lincolnshire, having been ordained in 1835. However, he had to wait until Farrer died 16 years later before he could take possession of the Rectory and become Rector of Ashley.
John Pulteney paid Farrer £4,000 for the rectory, glebe, and other land “in lieu of tithes”. He also, most importantly, purchased the advowson. This was the right to appoint the rector in perpetuity. Richard bequeathed the advowson to his son Arthur. Arthur, in turn, bequeathed it to his sister, Beatrice. It was not until 1958, after Beatrice’s death, that the right to appoint the Rector passed out of the Pulteney family.
Richard Thomas Pulteney and his wife Emma had 16 children, nine of whom are buried in Ashley churchyard, as are Richard and Emma. Four of the children died in infancy and they are buried in a single plot to the east of the church. Three of the brothers are buried nearby. William Pulteney and his sister, Beatrice Lascelles are buried to the west of the church.
The eldest son, Richard Maximilian, was a soldier in the Oxfordshire Light Infantry. The second son, Frederick Evelyn, was a tea- and coffee-planter in Ceylon. He is one of the brothers buried in the churchyard. The third son, Francis Basil, was the Principal Clerk in the Chancery registrar’s Office. He is also buried in the churchyard.
Three of the daughters, Emma, Alice and Elizabeth Evelyn, married soldiers.
Of the four children who did not survive childhood, Aubrey Somerville died at the age of nine months from whooping cough, soon after the family arrived in Ashley. Apsley died at the age of five from scarlet fever. The two youngest children, Caroline and Reginald, died at the ages of three and ten months respectively. Caroline died from “atrophy” and Reginald from convulsions (probably caused by whooping cough).
Three daughters, Frances, Judith and Isabel were unmarried. Isabel qualified as a doctor at the age of 43 and went on to become a Consultant Physician at the South London Hospital for Women. She and Judith lived together in London until they died in their nineties.
Much of the major impact of the Pulteney era was building programme initiated by Richard Thomas Pulteney. His desire to leave an impression on the village appears typical of wealthy Victorians of the time and his decision to demolish some buildings and replace them with the neo-gothic style that we can admire today was again typical for that period.
Over the course of 60+ years both Father and Son acquired farmland and buildings to the extent that they owned probably half of the village (over 1100 acres and approx 50 dwellings by 1940). Originally the Palmer family from East Carlton were the non-resident Lords of the Manor but in time this role was taken over by the Pulteneys’ and by the end of WWII all the Palmer holdings had been sold to Trinity College, Cambridge.
In addition to acquiring land RTP carried out the following good works;
He extended and restored Ashley Church. (compare the picture of the church in 1852 before RTP arrived and now after the restoration period)
He provided an organ, a heating “apparatus” system and a new church clock was erected in the tower
He extended and restored the rectory (now known as Ashley Court) to house his large family
Provided a school and school house
Built a fine Gentleman’s residence with stabling and the house later became the rectory and later still “The Old Rectory”
Provided a reading and club room for male parishioners
Built 5 neo-gothic style workers cottages
Built a pair of workers cottages opposite The Rectory
He purchased 2 public houses, a bake house, carpenters house and yard, a shop, a forge
He removed a farmhouse sited near the Churchyard and built a new one on the western side of the village. This large imposing building was named Northerwood Grange but is now known as Pulteney Lodge. It is a typically Victorian building with large chimneys, several floors and the initial specification was impressive. The farm buildings included;
New hen roost, dairy, tool house, machine/chaff house with oak threshing floor and a boundary wall with coping stones (as seen today)
Note also something else of interest. This would not have been the first time that arrow slits have been seen in Ashley since the oldest wall in Ashley near the entrance to Westhorpe has a number of arrow slits and the practice is repeated in other modern buildings in and around the village.