The Bridgeman Family and Weston Park
Weston is mentioned in the Domesday Book when it was held by Rainald de Bailleuil, Sheriff to Roger de Montgomery. It was then held successively by the de Westons and the Myttons, passing through the female line to the Myttons. The last of the Myttons was a daughter, Elizabeth (see picture right), who married Sir Thomas Wilbraham from Woodhey in Cheshire in 1651.
In 1671, using a copy of Palladio's First Book of Architecture, she supervised and directed the rebuilding of the present house. Unfortunately Elizabeth and Sir Thomas failed to produce a male heir, and so Weston was inherited by Elizabeth and Sir Thomas's third daughter Mary who married Richard Newport, 2nd Earl of Bradford.
Henry, 3rd Earl of Bradford, succeeded his father in 1723 and is described by historians as 'immoral and vindictive'. Having quarrelled with his mother he bequeathed the extensive Newport estates to his illegitimate son, John (Weston was the property of his mother who was still living). The will was contested but could not be overturned.
Henry's brother, Thomas the 4th Earl died without heirs in 1762 and the earldom became extinct, thus Weston again passed through the female line. The estate was divided between his sisters, Lady Diana Newport and Lady Anne Newport, who had married Sir Henry Bridgeman, Bt of Castle Bromwich Hall, near Birmingham.
Their son Sir Henry inherited Weston, which then became the main Bridgeman seat. He was responsible for buying much of the French furniture and tapestries, and employed Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to landscape the park. In 1815 his son, Sir Orlando, a noted agriculturist, was created 1st Earl of Bradford of the second creation. On the death of his father in 1825 George became the 2nd Earl of Bradford (see left).
Orlando, 3rd Earl of Bradford married Selina, a noted beauty, daughter of Lord Forester of Willey, Shropshire. He was a very keen horseman, hunting in Melton Mowbray as well as breeding and training racehorses. This interest was put to public service when he became Master of the Horse to Queen Victoria. He made extensive alterations to the house, creating the dining room from several smaller rooms, moving the entrance from south to east, and laying out the terraced gardens.
The next Earl of note was Gerald, 6th Earl of Bradford, my father, who succeeded to the title in 1957. A highly respected and self-taught expert on trees and forestry, he was responsible for much of the recent planting in the Temple Wood and for many years was a Crown Estate Commissioner. In 1946 he married my mother, Mary Montgomery, whose inspired remodelling of the interior decoration of Weston gives the house its character today.
In 1981 my father died at the early age of sixty-nine, and I received a Death Duty Bill of £8 million; after five years of negotiations with the Treasury, the Weston Park Foundation was established in 1986 and now owns Weston Park, it is an educational charity charged with the preservation of Weston and is responsible for the day-to-day running of it.
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