Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Easby Hall and the Rise and Fall of the Whitby Campions

The tiny hamlet of Easby serves as a picturesque setting against the majestic backdrop of the Cleveland Hills. The large prominent house to the left of centre is Easby Hall.

Easby Manor came into the possession of Robert Campion, a prominent figure in Whitby during the early 19th century. Campion, a banker and businessman of considerable means, is credited with the construction of the Hall and of Capt. James Cook’s monument, overlooking his estate.

However, Campion’s tenure as lord of the manor was brief. In 1841, his banking enterprise collapsed, leading to his bankruptcy and the subsequent sale of the hall and estate.

However, it seems, the true driving force behind the family’s enterprises was Margaret Campion, Robert’s mother.

Margaret Holt, born to John and Martha Holt in 1748, emerged as a formidable figure in Whitby’s maritime and trade circles. She married Nathaniel Campion, a shipowner and merchant, and together they bore a son named Robert around 1773.

In 1792, Margaret collaborated with her brothers and brother-in-law in the construction of a ship called The Vigilant. The vessel embarked on successful trading voyages to destinations such as Russia, Stockholm, and the West Indies until its loss in 1797.

Following Nathaniel’s death in 1798, Margaret assumed control of his maritime and commercial ventures. She obtained membership in the Russian Company, enabling her to engage in Baltic trade. Despite the risks inherent in this trade, Margaret navigated her enterprises skilfully, avoiding significant losses during tumultuous periods such as the Tsar’s seizure of British assets in 1800.

To streamline her diverse business interests, Margaret established a bank with her son Robert in 1800. Leveraging Whitby’s status as a prominent port, the bank proved lucrative, contributing to the Campion family’s growing wealth. Margaret, respected and influential in her own right, passed away in 1804, leaving behind a legacy of business acumen.

Robert continued to expand the family’s enterprises following his mother’s death. He diversified into the wine trade and obtained patents for innovative sailcloth manufacturing techniques. Despite initial success, the family’s fortunes declined, culminating in the bank’s failure in 1841 due to mounting debts.

Margaret Holt Campion’s legacy as a shrewd businesswoman was instrumental in building the family’s wealth. Her stewardship of the bank she co-founded ensured its prosperity, laying the foundation for her son and grandson to enjoy gentlemanly status. However, the subsequent generations lacked the drive and competence to sustain their predecessors’ achievements, leading to the eventual downfall of the family’s enterprises.

Further reading:

Easby Hall, Easby, Great Ayton, Hambleton Heritage Asset Statement: Assessment of Significance. By J.M. Trippier Archaeological and Surveying Consultancy May 2011 Clients: Messrs Wighton, Jagger, Shaw Architects Ltd.

“Margaret Campion, Business Woman”. Year: 2018 https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2018/05/margaret-campion-business-woman.html [accessed 6 February 2024]

Discovery.ucl.ac.uk. “A Maritime History of the Port of Whitby, 1700-1914” by Stephanie Karen Jones. Thesis submitted to the University College London 1982.






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