As long ago as the twelfth century, St Oswald’s Priory at Nostell, near Pontefract, was home to canons of the order of St Augustine, and until it was dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII it was one of the wealthiest priories in the country. In secular times, a grand house on the site was home to the Gargrave family, whose rapid rise had seen Sir Thomas Gargrave attain the offices of Speaker in the House of Commons and High Sheriff of Yorkshire during the days of Queen Elizabeth I. But within a couple of generations the family was ruined.
Sir Thomas’s grandson and namesake, into whose hands Nostell had come, was executed in 1595 for committing murder by poisoning, a deed shrouded in mystery and misinformation for centuries-until now. In 1654, Nostell became the property of the Winn family, who were soon made baronets by Charles II, having shown him great support during the Civil Wars. The following century, Sir Rowland Winn, 4th Baronet of Nostell, began work on a brand new, magnificent Palladian house, known today as Nostell Priory, in honour of the medieval canons who had once worshipped on the site.
His descendants would cede the title, but in 1885, another Rowland Winn of Nostell, who was Conservative MP for North Lincolnshire, was made Baron St Oswald following his party’s election success. Featuring stories about the formidable Swiss wife of the 5th Baronet, whose daughter ran away with the local baker, grand political rallies, secret marriages, and even murder, _Tales From the Big House: Nostell Priory_ offers the reader an exciting tour-de-force through some of the history of the site, and the owners and their servants who made this great house their home.