History of Marston Grange
Marston Grange is a 406 acre arable farm on Marston Moor which dates back to 1769 and the time of the local Enclosures Act.
The house and farm are built where there is a geological change in the soil type and this is also thought to mark the ditch line which divided the two armies led by Fairfax and Prince Rupert in 1644 during the English Civil War and the battle of Marston Moor. It is not clear from any records yet found who owned the land at the time of the battle.
You can find out about our events by going to our Events Diary.
There are many contemporary documentary sources dating to the battle as well as archaeological finds and modern research which have helped to paint a picture of the battle of Marston Moor. The main written references are:
- The Road to Marston Moor, D Cooke (Pen & Sword, 2007)
- The Battle of Marston Moor, P R Newman (Anthony Bird, 1981)
- Marston Moor 1644 , P R Newman and P Roberts (Blackthorn Press, 2003)
- Marston Moor 1644, J Tincey (Osprey Publishing, 2003)
- The Battle of Marston Moor, JH Crockatt (Lutterworth Press, 1976)
The Parliamentarian troops, commanded by Ferdinando, Lord Fairfax, Oliver Cromwell and the Earl of Manchester were amassed on the southern rise of Marston Moor and gained the advantage of the ridge and the highest ground, now referred to as ‘Cromwell’s Plump’. Prince Rupert, the Marquis of Newcastle, Lord John Byron and Lord George Goring took up positions on the open Moor behind Marston Grange.Battle of Marston Moor
From our own research into these sources it seems that the land belonging to Marston Grange to the South of the ditch line was under cultivation at the time of the battle, as there are references to the Parliamentarian troops wading through corn. This would not have been as we know corn today, at knee or thigh height, but up to their waists, or even shoulders.
The ditch itself seems to have been a tall bank dropping down from South to North with deep, tall hedges and sometimes walls along its line – probably at the edge of the rabbit warren. The hedges and the steep drop are still visible in some places today to the West of Marston Grange.
The land behind Marston Grange would have been grazing up to the ditch line but was probably wild gorse moorland up to White Sike and Wilstrop Wood, as this land remained uncultivated until the 1950’s.
You can read more about the accounts of the battle by visiting our Links page.
Before 1644 there is some evidence that Marston Grange was owned by the Cistercian Monks of Fountains Abbey at the time of the Reformation and this seems to be borne out by the finding of a small silver cross on the site in 2007 with a religious inscription. A stone built wall on the site may also possibly date to this period as it is built on a slightly different alignment to the brick buildings but this has not been proven.
We do not know what happened to Marston Grange after the battle until we pick up the land records in 1769, at the time of the Local Enclosures Act. At this point the land belonging to Marston Grange was allocated to a local landowner, Richard Wilson, of Ingmanthorp Hall.
‘Enclosure’ was the process whereby a tenant farmer’s strips in the open fields were exchanged for a consolidated holding. No map for the area exists but the Award describes the enclosed lands in the manor of Marston and who they were awarded to and the main parcel of ‘541 acres and 31 perches’ bounding onto Wilstrop and Moor Monkton was given to Richard Wilson. The initials RW and the date 1769 are cut into the cap stones on either side of our oldest barn, and it therefore seems likely that this theory is true.
When Richard Wilson died his extensive estates stretching down to Nottingham, and which included Marston Grange, were inherited by his nephew, Andrew Montague. There is a pump which came from our Wash House with the initials AM 1868 which bears this out.
Historic farmhouse. The tenant farmers who lived at Marston Grange and their families and workers have been identified from census records:
- Benjamin Clark 1841, 1851, 1861
- Richard Machin 1871
- Richard Hodgson Mawson 1881, 1891, 1901
- John Gowland 1911
- ‘Benjamin Clark of Marston Grange‘ and his close family take pride of place in the graveyard in Long Marston church but others have left their initials in other less prestigious locations – such as RHM, probably Richard Hodgson Mawson - on the privy lid in the old latrine in the yard and on the pantry shelves in the house.
When Andrew Montague died in 1895 we know that Marston Grange was one of the largest farms in Long Marston parish with 442 acres valued at £9727 in the 1910 land valuation survey. The farm was bought from the Montague estate in 1920, by brothers James and William Moll for £9083 and 16 shillings.
We know that the brothers successfully continued to sheep farm at Marston Grange until it was bought by the Dutch immigrant, Cornelis Smakman, in 1942 and passed to R Smakman Ltd. It was Cornelis and his son, Remigius Smakman, who first drained the moor land in order to begin arable food production here during the Second World War and this is the story which continues today with David Smakman farming as the third generation here at Marston Grange.
If your family history touches on that of Marston Grange - whether you have stories passed down about your ancestors fighting at the battle of Marston Moor or you are related to those families who have farmed here in the past – we would love to hear from you.
We are particularly keen to track down any photographs of the farm and its personalities in the past or to hear from the Moll family from whom we bought the farm in 1942. If you can help please email us at email@example.com.