The story of the Hardy family begins during one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of Ireland.
The ‘Plantation of Ulster’ was the organised colonisation of Ulster Province, by people from Britain during the reign of James I in 1609. An estimated ½ million acres spanning the counties of Tyrconnell,Tyrone,Fermanagh,Cavan,Coleraine and Armagh were confiscated from Gaelic chiefs, most of whom had fled Ireland in the 1607 ‘Flight of the Earls’. Most of counties Antrim and Down were privately colonised.
Colonising Ulster with loyal settlers was seen as a way to prevent further rebellion, as it had been the region most resistant to English control during the preceding century.
By the 1630’s it was suggested that the plantation was settling down. However in the 1640’s the Ulster Plantation was thrown into turmoil by civil wars that raged in Ireland,England and Scotland.
On 23rd October 1641 the Ulster Catholics staged a rebellion. The mobilised natives turned on the ‘British’ colonists, massacring about 4000 and expelling about 8000 more. At first there were beatings and robbing of local settlers who lived on land taken from the Irish Catholics by force of arms, then house burnings and expulsions and finally killings. The Portadown Massacre took place in November 1641 in Armagh. Up to 100 mostly Protestants were killed in the River Bann by a group of armed Catholics. Armed parties of Ulstermen were rounding up British Protestant settlers and marching them to the coast, where they were forced to board ships to Britain.
It was during these troubled times that John Stanhope (1608-1675) fled from Ireland back to his family seat at Horsforth, Leeds, bringing with him his loyal Irish servant, Thomas Hardy.
This is the first of the ‘known’ Hardy family.
Thomas Hardy settled in Horsforth,Leeds, establishing the family line; he was buried on 6th March 1683. Little is known of the achievements of the next two generations, both headed by a John Hardy, other than that the family had become butchers and skinners.
Great-grandson William (1714-1762) broke with this tradition when he became Clerk to ‘Lawyer Stanhope’ (John Stanhope 1715-1806) a celebrated Attorney in the commercial world of Northern England in the mid-eighteenth century.
Before William’s eldest son, John Hardy (1744-1806) had reached his twenty-fifth year he had replaced his father as Clerk and Steward to the aged John Stanhope, whose patronage established John as an Attorney of some repute.
In 1770 Walter Stanhope (1750-1821) inherited the Horsforth and Thornton (Bradford) estates of his uncle, John Stanhope. About the same time he also succeeded to the even more valuable estates of John Spencer of Cannon Hall in South Yorkshire, changing his name to Walter Spencer Stanhope. He also travelled abroad, making ‘The Grand Tour’, and in 1776 became a member of ‘The Society of Dilettanti’.
“Annals of a Yorkshire Country House” a book describing the life and times of Walter Spencer Stanhope also gives a portrait of the character of John Hardy during his service to the estate as Agent and Steward. (Extract included here)
Extract from “Annals of a Yorkshire Country House”
When Walter Stanhope succeeded to the Horsforth estates, he had retained there his uncle’s clerk, John Hardy as the Agent and Steward. On Stanhope succeeding to the Cannon Hall property from William Spencer, his grandfather, Benjamin Dutton, was still managing that estate as Steward but he was getting past work, and in the year 1778 Stanhope therefore took it out of the old man’s hands, and placed it likewise under the superintendence of John Hardy.
There is a note from Hardy, dated November 21st, 1778, relating to his removal to Barnby Hall, Cawthorne, as a result of this arrangement:—“Sir, It would be a want of gratitude not to regard myself as almost entirely at your disposal. Respecting the house, I know very little of it, having never seen more than one room, but am informed it is worse on the inside than the out. You need not be told how necessary a convenient and tenable house is for domestic happiness. It is with regret I mention this, as such alterations as must there be wanting, must be attended with expense. If my information is true, the expectation of myself and her whose happiness I have every reason to consult. I trust, will not be thought unreasonable, in desiring two good decent low rooms and two upper. Perhaps these may be obtained?”
On Hardy’s removal to Cawthorne, a Mr Howson was appointed to take over some of his work at Horsforth, but Hardy wrote triumphantly to Stanhope: — ” He told me that you said that I should continue in the receipt of the Horsforth Rents, for which I thank you, not so much from any emolument I expect (for that I leave entirely to yourself) as on account of the concern a separation to that extent would give me.” Mr Howson also tried to obtain a far higher salary than the £50 per annum with which Hardy had been contented. In short, not only was Hardy unmercenary, but Stanhope’s confidence in him was never misplaced. He continued conscientious, hard-working and unassuming, while the unalterable simplicity of his character remained evident in every action of his life. On one occasion Stanhope, who had a high opinion of his ability, sent him to London on a mission of importance to Mr Pitt. Hardy rode there and back with such expedition that his fatigue induced him to represent to Mr Stanhope the desirability of his being provided with a carriage in order to further the dispatch of any business in the future. The carriage was at once procured for him; but Hardy, on the rare occasions when he could make up his mind to use it, invariably dismissed it at the Lodge at Cannon Hall and walked up to the house, from a feeling that it was presumptuous to be seen driving through Mr Stanhope’s park. Nor could he, without pressure, ever make up his mind to be seated in the presence of any of the family.
His sons, during their boyhood, were also brought up in the same spirit, and with a complete absence of any needless luxury. An amusing story is still remembered in Horsforth in this connection. John Hardy had a housekeeper who acted in the capacity of nurse to his boys when small, and who reared them in the Spartan fashion approved by their father. Every day for supper they were given dry bread and milk, and only on rare occasions were they allowed to have butter as a treat. One day when John Hardy was away, his second son Charles informed the housekeeper that his father, before departing, had given permission for the coveted indulgence of butter with the bread. The housekeeper privately doubted the truth of this statement, though having no plausible grounds on which to combat it, she gave the boy the unwonted luxury, but took the precaution on Mr Hardy’s return to acquaint him with the fact. John Hardy, who had never given the order imputed, at once prepared the birch, and sending for Charles, demanded to know if he had been guilty of procuring the indulgence in the manner stated. The unhappy culprit admitted this was the case. “So you told a lie and said I had given an order I had never given.” cross-questioned John Hardy. “Oh, no, father!” exclaimed the miscreant indignantly, “If I ever told a lie!” “What do you mean, sir?” thundered his father. “You said I had given an order which I never gave, and dare to tell me that was not a lie?” “Oh no, father, for I said perhaps under my breath!”
The subsequent history of John Hardy was remarkable. It is given here in the words of Walter Stanhope’s son, who wrote it down in the year 1836. “My father must have taken the management of his estate out of the hands of Mr Dutton in the year 1778, and placed it under the charge of Mr Hardy the steward at Horsforth. This Mr Hardy, the father of the present Member for Bradford, had been clerk to Lawyer Stanhope, and also managed the affairs of his estate. His family had originally come over from Ireland with an Ancestor of mine, who had accompanied his brother-in-law Sir George Rawdon to that country, and they continued from that time attached to my family. They had risen to wealth in the following manner: Mr Hardy, who continued to act as my father’s steward till old age unfitted him for the task, came one morning to my father (who then had several children) and thus addressed him :— ‘”Sir, you are likely to have a large family. I come to point out to you a way of providing for your young children. The Low Moor estate is on sale. It is a most valuable mineral property and there is now a colliery upon it. II can find you the money tomorrow,” ”What, borrow money to buy more land?” said my father, “Pooh, pooh, nonsense! “A short time afterwards, Hardy came again and said, “Sir, since you will not buy the Low Moor estate yourself, I conceive you will have no objection to my being the purchaser?” “Certainly not, you may do as you like Hardy,” said my father. Mr Hardy accordingly entered into partnership with Messrs Dawson, and Jarrett, the Lessee of the colliery, and bought the estate. They found in it a valuable field of ironstone, and a bed of coal peculiarly adapted to smelt that metal. Thus originated the Low Moor Iron Company, who later gave in their income on Pitt’s income tax at £60,000 per annum. It may be added that the landed property at Low Moor when offered to Stanhope was worth between £800 and £900 a year, and the colliery was valued at £950. It was put up for sale in one lot at the Sun Inn, Bradford, in December 1786. It was not sold, and was again offered at the Sun Inn in October of the following year; but it remained unsold till 1788, when it was bought by private treaty for the Low Moor Iron Company. The original pioneers of the concern were Preston, Hird and Jarrett. Preston, whose ancestors lived at Yeadon, was a prosperous wool merchant, who had Hird, a Rawdon youth, as his apprentice, and afterwards took him into partnership. They became interested in collieries and took a third partner, John Jarrett, who became connected with iron- smelting. It was when a new partnership was formed that John Hardy came into the business, already floated by a hard-headed trio of business men from his native Yorkshire hills; and with him joined Joseph Dawson, then a Minister at Idle, and John Lofthouse of Liverpool. The latter did not long remain a partner, and the shares of Preston and Jarrett were afterwards purchased by the other partners. Preston died in 1789, and one of the witnesses to his will was John Hardy, who affixed to the document the seal of the Stanhope family, an implement which, being in his possession for use in transactions connected with his stewardship, he often appended to papers that were in no way concerned with the family of his employers.
The Hardys were very religious; indeed Wesley, who used often to preach in the Bell Chapel at Horsforth is said to have delivered his first sermon in that town in a barn belonging to John Hardy’s brother. A story runs that after the purchase of his share in the Low Moor Iron Company, Hardy was anxious to promote the spiritual welfare of the men in his business, and soon induced a well-known preacher to come to Low Moor to give a discourse. But the divine, who chose as his subject the Nature of Evil, proved somewhat of a latitudinarian in dogma, and represented the Devil as more of an abstract conception, rather than a concrete, terrorising personality. Hardy, who understood the character of the men with whom he had to deal, lost no time in putting a stop to this pernicious doctrine. “That won’t do!” he contrived to inform the astonished preacher sotto voce: “Whatever you have elsewhere, we must have a Devil at Low Moor ! ”
Hardy subsequently lived at a house in Bradford, where the semi-subterranean basement had for long been employed by him as an office, and where much of the solicitor’s business was carried on by his partner Samuel Hailstone. Many are the letters from Mr Hardy and Mr Hailstone still in existence at Cannon Hall, respecting the management of that estate. One of them is of considerable interest in the history of Yorkshire industry; John Hardy to Walter Spencer-Stanhope. Bradford 21st 1800: –
“Sir, I have the satisfaction to inform you that on Thursday last the coal at Silkestone (a name which I think we ought to preserve as it is in some reputation already) was taken up from the engine pit Eye …There is no doubt that the whole will make a most excellent fire. A cart-load came yesterday to my house too late to try the quantity, but the fire was raked with them and this morning they have caked themselves with a cinder which was difficult to break. I have now the kitchen fire and a sitting- room fire burning with the coals of the first stratum and making one of the best and clearest fires I ever saw in my life. The Cinders are strong and bright, the ashes are few and a very light brown, and not dusty so as to fly about the room — no Newcastle can be more pure in this respect. The fires were lighted at seven this morning and it is now one, and they are both very good without having had any supply, the heat is strong. … I must sincerely congratulate you.” But even the discovery upon his estate of the famous Silkstone coal did not bring to Stanhope the wealth which came to the man who had recognised the advantage of speculating in the Low Moor Iron Company.
Yet Hardy never presumed upon his increase of fortune. When he finally became a rich man and had a house in town, he used to send round to Mr Stanhope’s house in Grosvenor Square with the homely message:— “Mr Hardy’s to Mr Stanhope, and he would be much obliged if he would give him a frank.” Neither did he disassociate himself wholly from the management of Stanhope’s estate till within three years of his death, when he wrote the following letter: — John Hardy to Walter Spencer-Stanhope. Bradford 1803: “Sir, It is not an easy matter for me to separate myself from the management of your concerns, but as you on Friday evening last expressed a Wish for my Continuance in some Shape, and at the same time that you should have a representative resident at Horsforth, I am desirous to propose to you the following arrangement. That my brother James should be nominally be your steward, and that I should give him all the requisite assistance in my power. He is sober, honest, and industrious and has a Capacity which will enable him soon to be acquainted with what will be sufficient for the management of your affairs at Horsforth. It will give me much pleasure if this proposal meets with an approbation which I hope you will inform me of as soon as convenient. Your very much obliged and very obedient Servant John Hardy”.
Apparently Stanhope demurred as to this appointment, for later that same month Hardy wrote again: John Hardy to Walter Spencer-Stanhope. Bradford, January 29 1803. “Sir, Notwithstanding I have considered the Recommendation of my Brother as impartially as I possibly could, I perhaps may be wrong in my Conclusion, which is that you will get no person to reside at Horsforth equally capable with himself to do your Business as Steward at the same Salary, which I should propose should be 50 p.a.. besides expenses.. His former Failures arose I believe from extending himself too far in Business as skinner and fellmonger. However, be that as it might, for 20 Years past he has been under the necessity of managing a trifling capital so as to enable him to bring up a Family consisting of several children in a decent and reputable Manner. It will give me much Pleasure if my Recommendation of him, with the assurance of all the assistance I can give him, shall so far meet your Approbation as to induce you to give him the appointment. Your early determination will relieve me from the anxiety I feel for his Success, I mentioned in my former letter my willingness to become responsible for his Integrity, I now repeat it. I am sorry to tell you that my Wife is ordered to Bristol, for which place we shall set off next Week. Your answering this letter about my Brother before I leave Bradford will add to the many Obligations conferred upon me. With much respect, I am, Sir, your most obg & very obdt Servant Jn Hardy.”
James Hardy to Walter Spencer-Stanhope. Horsforth Febry 11, 1803. “Hon Sir, As my brother is not at Home I take the Liberty to acquaint you that he and my sister set off for Bath the day before I received your Favour. I am informed they propose staying a few weeks. Suffer me in gratitude to acknowledge the Favour conferred upon me, Happy should I have been was I capable of serving you as my predecessor. Nothing shall be wanting that is in my power for my service to meet your approbation. The workmen are going on with the orders you gave at Christmas, should I be favoured with any further Commands they will readily be complied with. Sir, Your most obt. Humble Servant Jam’ Hardy” Thus James Hardy succeeded to the management of Horsforth, and became yet another of the Hardy family who served the Stanhopes faithfully. Meanwhile the change to Bath did little to restore the health of Mrs Hardy, and on January 12th, 1804, she died. A letter from John Hardy, dated the 30th of the same month, begs Mr Stanhope’s “acceptance of a Ring on the late mournful event which has happened to me,” to which he adds feelingly — ” I thank you for the consoling advice contained in your Favour of the 23d inst., which it shall be my endeavour to adopt to the utmost of my Power.” In this same letter he announces sadly: — ” Conceiving myself in a declining state, & that my Time in this World will not be long, I have had the Accounts . . . adjusted and balanced up to the first inst.”
Two years later, on June 6th, 1806, John Hardy ended his long stewardship, and in the sixty-second year of his life. breathed his last.
(End of extract)
John Hardy continued to work as Clerk and Steward for Walter Spencer Stanhope, and in 1778 was asked to be Steward of the Cannon Hall estate at an increased salary. He was also given a favourable lease of Barnby Hall near Cawthorne, with extensive farmland.
Walter Spencer Stanhope’s marriage to Mary Pulleine in 1783 also brought him considerable land in Northumberland and a substantial shareholding in the Aire-Calder navigation system
John Hardy’s personal wealth and reputation had also soared. His role as Steward must have been eclipsed by his legal reputation. His fortune had been made by his successful involvement in the Low Moor Ironworks Company. (see separate chapter) He did however maintain his loyalty to the Spencer Stanhope family, despite the occasional conflict of interest. In 1802 John Hardy mentioned his intention of resigning as Steward to Spencer Stanhope and suggested that ‘if some other person were appointed to manage your affairs’ (at Horsforth). He did not escape so easily. Walter Spencer Stanhope realised how great an asset an experienced and trustworthy Steward could be. Consequently Hardy remained in the position twelve months later, but was still requiring release from the post. He proposed that his “brother James should be nominally your Steward and that I should give him all the requisite assistance in my power”.
Walter Spencer Stanhope accepted this compromise, and James Hardy became yet another member of the Hardy family to serve the Stanhopes.
John Hardy resigned as Steward in 1803, and the following year his wife, Mary died. John Hardy himself died in June 1806.