James Emerson of Easby Hall

Charming and ingeneous” according to the ever euphuistic Pevsner1Pevsner, Nikolaus. “The Buildings of England – Yorkshire – The North Riding”. Penguin Books. Reprinted 1985. ISBN 0 14 071009 9, Easby Hall was built sometime between 1808 and 1823 soon after Robert Campion acquired the Lordship of the Manor2Easby Hall, Hambleton Heritage Asset Statement: Assessment of Significance. By J.M. Trippier Archaeological and Surveying Consultancy. Page 8. May 2011. Available online at http://documents.hambleton.gov.uk/NorthgatePublicDocs/00197510.pdf.

Campion was a Whitby based banker who acquired his money from shipbuilding, sail cloth manufacture and other industries3Ibid. Page 7.. He also was responsible for the erection of Capt. Cook’s Monument of Easby Moor.

By 1841, however Campion was bankrupt, and the estate was eventually brought by John Emerson, of Blue Hall, Linthorpe, to add to the family’s considerable land holdings4Death Of Mr Jas. Emerson Of Easby Hall. | Yorkshire Gazette | Saturday 23 January 1892 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000266/18920123/009/0003 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2022]..

Three years later the estate passed to his nephew, James Emerson, who would eventually become one of “the largest landed proprietors in Cleveland and Lord of the Manors of Easby, Kirby, Tolesby, Whorlton, &c.5Ibid. In 1879 Emerson was involved in a bidding war to purchase the Grey Towers Estate at Nunthorpe, which evetually reached £30,000 which fell short of the reserve6District Nevts. | York Herald | Saturday 12 July 1879 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000499/18790712/040/0012 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2022]..

When he died in 1892, James Emerson was portrayed as the quintessential country gentlemen: Justice of the Peace sitting at Stokesley, “an ardent supporter of the Church of England“, chairman of the Langbarugh West Board of Guardians, Commissioner of Income and Land Taxes for the same division, president of the Stokesley Agricultural Society, the Great Ayton Poultry Show, and chairman of the Trustees of the Great Ayton British School and the school at Kirby-in Cleveland7Death Of Mr Jas. Emerson Of Easby Hall. | Yorkshire Gazette | Saturday 23 January 1892 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000266/18920123/009/0003 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2022]..

Yet he is a bit of an enigma.

In a court report in 1855 he was described as “a gentleman of fortune” which to me seems quite disparaging8FEVERSHAM v. EMERSON. Yorkshire Spring Assizes. | York Herald | Saturday 24 March 1855 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000499/18550324/039/0006 [Accessed 13 Apr. 2022]..

And earlier, in 1849, Emerson was the victim of what can only be called an elaborate practical joke. Letters professing to come from him were received by various lawyers, doctors, auctioneers, tradesmen, innkeepers, etc, summoning them on business, at his house; the Vane Arms’ Inn had an order for their best carriage, with four greys and postilions; a hearse and mourning coaches were requested. Stokesley was said to be crowded with visitors from all neighbouring towns, who on arriving at Easby Hall, found they had been truly duped9Stockton-upon-Tees | Yorkshire Gazette | Saturday 17 February 1849 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000266/18490217/034/0006 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2022]..

Emerson offered a reward of £100 to be paid on conviction of those responsible but I’ve found no further reports10Barrigan, A. (2022). An elaborate hoax at Stokesley, 1849. [online] Blogspot.com. Available at: http://northyorkshirehistory.blogspot.com/2018/12/an-elaborate-hoax-at-stokesley-1849.html [Accessed 30 Apr. 2022]..

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