Monday, 26 October 2020

The Staples Baronets

This family settled in Ulster during the reign of JAMES I.

THOMAS STAPLES, of the Middle Temple, fifth son of Alexander Staples, of Yate Court, Gloucestershire, settled in Ulster ca 1610 as part of the plantation of Ulster.
This Thomas settled at Moneymore, County Londonderry (then being constructed as part of the terms of the plantation grant to the Worshipful Company of Drapers, which had been granted large swathes of the new county in 1611). His stone house is marked in a map of 1635 as in the centre of Moneymore, beside the Market Cross.
Mr Staples was created a baronet by CHARLES I in 1628, designated of Lissan, County Tyrone.

About the same date, he purchased several leases, including the lands of the town of Cookstown, and 180 acres at what is now the Lissan demesne.

It is thought that a dwelling existed on the estate at this time along with an Iron Forge which was used to smelt the iron deposits found across the estate.

Mainly as a result of the existence of the forge, the dwelling house survived the Rebellion of 1641.

Sir Thomas married, ca 1620, Charity, daughter and heir of Sir Baptist Jones, of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, and had issue,
BAPTIST, 2nd Baronet;
ALEXANDER, 3rd Baronet;
ROBERT, 4th Baronet;
Charity; Elizabeth.
Sir Thomas died in 1653, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR BAPTIST STAPLES, 2nd Baronet (1625-72), who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR ALEXANDER STAPLES, 3rd Baronet, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1661, MP for Strabane, 1661-65, who espoused Elizabeth Conyngham, by whom he had no male issue.

Sir Alexander was succeeded by his brother,

SIR ROBERT STAPLES, 4th Baronet (1643-1714), MP for Dungannon, 1692, Clogher, 1695, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1703, who wedded, 1681/2, Mary, daughter of the Most Rev John Vesey, Lord Archbishop of Tuam, and had issue,
JOHN, 5th Baronet;
ALEXANDER, 6th Baronet;
Thomas (Rev), Rector of Derryloran; father of JOHN, MP;
Jane; Ann; Rebecca; Mary.
The present Lissan House substantially owes its existence to Sir Thomas's third son Sir Robert, 4th Baronet.

Having married another heiress in the person of Mary Vesey, he improved the estate, building mills and enlarging the iron forge as well as substantially constructing the present house (incorporating large parts of the pre-existing dwelling) ca 1680.

He also created the walled garden which survives today.

The main feature of his house was the gargantuan oak staircase which still (following a reconstruction due to collapse in 1895) dominates the hall today.

Thomas Ashe, writing his report to the Archbishop of Armagh, from whom the land was originally leased, said, in 1703,
"Robert Staples has built a very good stone house; the rooms are noble, lofty and large. There is a very handsome staircase which leads to chambers above with a large parlour and dining room. The house is well-shingled and stands near a small tenement with four pretty rooms. He has built a handsome stable, large barns and a turf house all well shingled."
Sir Robert died in 1714, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR JOHN STAPLES, 5th Baronet (1684-1730), who wedded Mary Goslin, by whom he had no male issue, and was succeeded by his younger brother,

SIR ALEXANDER STAPLES, 6th Baronet (1693-1742), who married, in 1735, Abigail, daughter of Thomas Townley, and had issue, an only child,

SIR ROBERT STAPLES, 7th Baronet (1740-1816), who married firstly, in 1761, Alicia, daughter of Rev Thomas Staples, by whom he had a daughter, Sarah.

He espoused secondly, Mary, daughter of Sir William Barker Bt, and had further issue,
ROBERT, his successor;
Anna Maria.
He married thirdly, in 1776, Jane Vesey, daughter of John, 1st Baron Knapton, and sister of the Viscount de Vesci, and had further issue,
Elizabeth Selina;
Sir Robert was succeeded by his only son, 

SIR ROBERT STAPLES, 8th Baronet (1772-1832).
By the time of the 7th and 8th Baronets in the mid-18th century, the main branch of the family had moved to Castle Durrow in County Kilkenny. Lissan House was let to a minor branch of the family under The Rt Hon John Staples KC MP, first cousin of the 8th Baronet.
John Staples was a talented lawyer and was the last speaker in the Irish House of Commons before its dissolution in 1801. He went on two grand tours of Italy and Greece, furnishing Lissan with a fine collection of books, paintings and marbles.
His second wife was Henrietta, younger daughter of the Viscount Molesworth, one of the Duke of Marlborough's generals during the war of the Spanish Succession.
Sir Robert died without legitimate issue, as a result of which the Castle Durrow property was bequeathed to his eldest (illegitimate) son, whilst Lissan passed to the Rt Hon John Staples' eldest son,

SIR THOMAS STAPLES, 9th Baronet (1775-1865), QC, who espoused, in 1813, Catherine, daughter of the Rev John Hawkins, but had no issue.

Sir Thomas was a notable lawyer and was appointed Queen's Advocate in Ireland in 1845.

He married Catherine, another heiress, a partnership which made them one of the wealthiest families in Ireland.

Sir Thomas purchased the largest town house on Merrion Square in Dublin and made several notable additions to Lissan House, most notably the large ballroom (or music room), built to take advantage of views of the water gardens.

As a prosperous Dublin barrister, he was able to indulge himself in making Lissan a more fashionable house than it had ever been before, his most obvious contribution being to add the single-storey ballroom to the right-hand side of the entrance front.

In the main block of the house, he created Regency interiors in what is now the dining-room and the library, although only that in the dining-room survives.

Externally, he built out a porch (with two front columns answered by two pilasters either side of the Tuscan columns in the door-case, and a triglyph frieze), and altered the roof-line with the effect that the roof was disguised behind a parapet.

This latter change provided a loft to the house, and meant that the top windows were no longer overshadowed by the roof. 

No expense was spared on the construction of this addition, which was fitted with an early central heating system, was double glazed and which had sprung floorboards to aid dancing.

The room was decorated in a striking oriental scheme of scarlet and black and was decorated with vastly expensive hand-painted Chinese wallpaper originally purchased by Sir Thomas' sister Grace, Marchioness of Ormonde, for Kilkenny Castle.

Small portions of this wallpaper survive today, touched up by the last owner, Mrs Hazel Dolling.

Sir Thomas died childless in 1865, as a result of which the title and estate were inherited by the Rev John Molesworth Staples' eldest son Nathaniel, 10th Baronet.

However, Sir Thomas left the contents of Lissan House as well as the entire family fortune to his wife Catherine.

Unfortunately Catherine, Lady Staples, disliked Sir Nathaniel to such an extent that on her death both the fortune and furniture were bequeathed to her god-daughter, Mary Banks.

Thus the estate began a process of swift financial decline. 

SIR NATHANIEL ALEXANDER STAPLES, 10th Baronet (1817-99), JP DL, married, in 1844, Elizabeth, daughter of Captain James Head, and had issue,
JOHN MOLESWORTH, 11th Baronet;
James Head (1849-1917);
ROBERT PONSONBY, 12th Baronet;
Cecilia; another daughter.
Sir Nathaniel was a civil servant in India and during his absence on the subcontinent several members of the wider Staples family began to remove the remaining contents of the house.

The Rt Hon John Staples' third youngest daughter Charlotte had married William Lenox-Conyngham of Springhill in 1824.

During the 1860s and 70s, she and her eldest son, Sir William Lenox-Conyngham, systematically removed the entire contents of the Lissan library along with the best paintings in the house, including a portrait of the Rt Hon John Staples by Batoni. All of these can still be found at Springhill today.

When Sir Nathaniel eventually settled at Lissan during the 1880s, despite his straightened financial circumstances, he added a substantial porte-cochere to the front of the house and purchased the clock tower from the market-house in Magherafelt which he added to the West end of the house.

At the age of 55, Sir Nathaniel evicted Elizabeth, Lady Staples, from the house and lived out his remaining years in the scandalous company of a young clairvoyant, Mary Potter, who was originally from Cookstown.

By the time of his death in 1899, the family were all but financially ruined.

Sir Nathaniel was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR JOHN MOLESWORTH STAPLES, 11th Baronet (1847-1933), who was pronounced "insane" and spent the entire duration of his baronetcy in an asylum in England until his death in 1933.

As a result of this, the estate was first occupied by the second eldest son of the family, James Head Staples, who had originally settled at Braemar, Scotland.

He and his wife built a creamery, took in boarders, and Mrs Staples taught cookery and lace-making so that local girls would have some training to enable them to find work in Cookstown.

He also fitted a second-hand water turbine on the Lissan Water in 1902, which supplied the house with its sole source of electricity until 2007 (and which is still in full working order today).

The estate remained, however, in terminal decline.

When James Head Staples died in 1911, the house was left temporarily unoccupied until his eccentric younger brother,

SIR (ROBERT) PONSONBY STAPLES, 12th Baronet (1853-1943), who wedded, in 1883, Ada Louise, daughter of H Stammers, and had issue,
Violet Hope; Beatrice Joyce Head; Nora Lettice Mary.
Sir Ponsonby was persuaded to leave London and settle at Lissan in 1912.

Sir Ponsonby was an exceptionally talented artist.

He had gone to the Catholic University of Leuven to study architecture at the age of twelve before moving to Dresden to study fine art.

When he returned to London during the 1880s he quickly became one of the most famous portrait artists of his day.

He exhibited his first picture at the Royal Academy aged 21.

Sir Ponsonby was also an infamous socialite and member of the Café Royal set.

He was a friend and favourite of King Edward VII.

His most famous attribute was his refusal to wear shoes.

He believed that the earth exuded natural electricity which was beneficial to the health and thus shunned the wearing of shoes and listing his principal occupation as "barefoot walking" in the 1926 Who's Who.

Today his paintings are hugely valuable but, whilst existing at the centre of the social scene in fin de siecle London, his work did not make him a wealthy man.

After settling at Lissan, his finances evaporated and he was known to often ask the postman for a loan or to pawn his own paintings in order to raise funds.

A great sale was held during his tenure which lasted two full days and which saw the remaining pictures and fine furnishings sold off, many to the Lenox-Conyngham family at Springhill where they remain today.

By 1943, the estate, stripped of its furnishings and largely sold off, was virtually bankrupt.

Sir Ponsonby was succeeded by his son,

SIR ROBERT GEORGE ALEXANDER STAPLES, 13th Baronet (1894-1970), who married, in 1922, Vera Lilian, daughter of John Jenkins, and had issue, two daughters,
Elizabeth Hope.
Sir Robert was educated at Campbell College, Belfast, and Trinity College Dublin; fought in the First World War; Lieutenant, Royal Army Service Corps; was a director of Peter Marsh & Sons (Northern Ireland) in 1961.

He discovered that he could no longer afford to live at Lissan.

Sir Robert consequently employed Harry Dolling as estate manager and settled in England, where he could find suitable employment.

Mr Dolling divided Lissan House into apartments and, from 1943 until the late 1960s, the house was home to over a hundred people living in self-contained flats and tenements carved out of the once elegant public rooms and bedrooms.

The remaining contents of value were sent to be stored temporarily at Springhill, where they were mixed with the Lenox-Conynghams' own property and were presented mistakenly to the National Trust along with Springhill in 1957.

Sir Robert feared that he would be the last of the Staples to live at Lissan. He had only two daughters as issue.

The younger, Elizabeth, had settled with her own family in England; whilst the elder, Hazel, (following a spell in the WRNS) had settled into a life on the seas with the Cunard Line as purser on the Queen Mary and Caronia.

Neither had any interest in the now crumbling, run-down and bankrupt estate.

However, the 13th Baronet's death in 1970, the elder daughter Hazel visited Lissan with her mother and met the agent, Mr Dolling.

Within the year the pair were married and both settled at Lissan, returning the house to a single dwelling for the occupation of themselves and Hazel's mother Vera, Lady Staples.

Whilst Hazel inherited the house and estate from her father, the baronetcy passed to Sir Jack Staples and from him to his cousin and, in swift succession, to his two brothers, the present being the 17th Baronet, Sir Richard Staples.

Both inherited the title at advanced ages and neither have any male heirs.

As a result, a search was instigated by Debrett's in the 1990s seeking the next Staples baronet and a ten year genetic research programme started in 2002 which it was hoped would locate the next Baronet.

Three candidates, Garth Staples and Gerald Staples of Nova Scotia, Canada and David Staples of the USA, have been identified as within a sufficient genetic distance according to family tree, all of whom are descended from Matthew Staples.

It is believed that Matthew Staples was in the company of Governor Cornwallis as a military blacksmith at Halifax in 1749 although the link with the Lissan family tree remains elusive and no one candidate has yet proved their claim.

SIR JOHN RICHARD STAPLES, 14th Baronet (1906-89), married, in 1933, Sybel, daughter of Dr Charles Henry Wade.

His cousin,

SIR THOMAS STAPLES, 15th Baronet (1905-97), married, in 1952, Frances Ann Irvine.

He died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR GERALD JAMES ARLAND STAPLES, 16th Baronet (1909-99), who married, in 1951, Henrietta Owen, daughter of Percival Arland Ussher.

He, too, died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR RICHARD MOLESWORTH STAPLES, 17th Baronet (1914-2013), who married, in 1954, Marjorie Charlotte Jefcoate.

He was educated at St Andrew's College, Dublin; fought in the Second World War, in Burma; was with the Royal Air Force, 1940-52; was with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, 1952-59.

The title, one of the oldest in the baronetage, is now considered to be in abeyance.

Hazel Dolling (neé Staples), elder daughter of the 13th Baronet, has written an account of the Staples family history.

The Staples Papers are deposited at PRONI.  First published in May, 2011.


Gavin Bamford said...

17th bt, a good number but no sign of an heir. They seem to live to a good old age. Probably the Bt will go sideways to a far away relative?

Kyle said...

Yes indeed, the 18th Baronet has been traced after a global search sponsored by Debrett's. He is Garth Staples of Prince Edward Island, Canada and is descended from Rev. Alexander Staples (a younger brother of the Rt. Hon. John Staples P.C.) and Jane Wilson.

Timothy Belmont said...

Many thanks for that indeed; I wondered about the future of the Baronetcy, given the present Baronet's age.

Garth E, Staples said...

Nice to see continuing interest in the Staples Baroncy.
Garth E Staples

Jayne G said...

Good to see you online Garth. I trust you have been keeping an eye on Lissan Facebook. Many good things happening at Lissan. Lissan House Trust would be happy to link with you. Best Wishes. Jayne

J said...

Lots to see on Facebook : Lissan

Anonymous said...

isn't there a tremendous spooky story from recent times of how when Sir Nathaniel's portrait was returned to Lissan and hung near his estranged wife's, the next day hers had fallen off the wall it had hung for decades ? The present Lissan regime could confirm !

Lisa Staples-Sears said...

Greetings All,

My name is Lisa M. Staples-Sears and through DNA tastings I learned that my Father; Norman Harold Staples turned out to be a cousin to Garth Staples and that our family did indeed spring from the Staples I just read about in this blog. I've always been interested in learning as much as possible about my family & this writing helped me with that. So I just wanted to give you a Big Thank You for this treasure I have just found. Peace & Blessings to you Sir.

oldmanofthewest said...

A story told to me by my late mother describes well the impecunious state of the Staples family. It dates from the 1930s. Dr Elliott, then a well known GP of the old school, was asked to attend a maid. When he examined her in bed he saw that there was nothing really wrong. He asked what was the matter. She said she had taken to her bed as she hadn't been paid for six months. Apparently the old medic threw back the covers and said: "Move over dear. I haven't been paid for six years."