Pylewell House, Lymington, Hampshire, in about 1830, after alteration by the Weld family.

Ascanius William Senior apparently bought the Pylewell estate from the Worsley family in 1780. He sold the estate in 1787 to Thomas Robbins, who sold it in 1801 to Thomas Weld. In 1853 the estate was sold to William Peere Williams-Freeman, after whose death in 1873 it was sold to William Ingham Whitaker. In 1988 the estate was inherited by John Roper-Curzon, Lord Teynham, whose mother, Elspeth Whitaker, was the heir of her brother, William Ingham Whitaker, third of that name.

Mary Clarke (b. 1839), Ascanius' great-great-niece, writing in a letter dated about 1950 about her mother’s, Anna Senior (b. 1808), memories of the Senior Family, stated that Ascanius built Pylewell. I do not think this can be correct but he may have re-built Pylewell or substantially re-modelled an existing building on the site. Certainly the building depicted in the drawing of 1750 is of contemporary design.

Pylewell House with the Solent and the Isle of Wight in the background

The picture above depicts Pylewell House by Rocque (from Vitruvius Britannicus by T. Badeslade and J. Rocque, 1739) from the north at the beginning of the 18th century. It shows a three storey house laid out with formal gardens and a dramatic double avenue leading down to the Solent looking out to the Isle of Wight. How much of these formal gardens were ever planted remains uncertain. Although parts of the double avenue survive, no trace of the rest of the formal gardens has been found. The picture may have been a proposal rather than a detailed record of actual plantings.

A picture of Pylewell in 1750 apparently. This picture is still at Pylewell (in the downstairs loo as far as I remember) and has kindly been provided by Lord Teynham, the current owner. The text immediately beneath the picture reads ‘Pilewell near Lymington, Seat of Ascanius Senior Esq. Viewing ascent of Vincent Lunardi in a balloon.’ Below that the text reads 'In the summer of 1750 the Prince of Wales (father of George III), Frederick, having been for some time in weak health resided for some weeks at Pilewell, at that time the seat of the Worsley family, to enjoy the sea air. Prince Frederick was made a Free Burgess of the Corporation [of Lymington presumably], 1750, and his son, the Duke of York, was similarly elected in 1780 on his coming of age. George III stayed at Lymington after a visit to the 'King's House' at Lyndhurst. Says the chronicler 'Pileswell House, a handsome family seat, is beautifully situated, enjoying a fine view that ranges from the Needles to Spithead. The south front is the most striking, the left wing is the library. The grounds around it are laid out with great simplicity, an extensive lawn belted by a shady walk with [?] openings stretches from the house to the seaside.''

Ascanius Senior went out to Bengal in 1753, as a 'writer' in the East India Company and prospered, becoming Clerk to the Court of Requests in 1756. He was present, in the Militia, at the siege of Fort William, Calcutta, in June 1756, by the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ad Dowla. He escaped being captured and put into the 'Black Hole' by leaving Fort William during the confusion following the attack in the early hours of 19th June. Along with the rest of merchants, civilians and others he fled down stream to Fulta, a Dutch possession, and endured a 7 month period of acute discomfort whilst negotiations to return to Calcutta were being made. During the next four years his fortunes rose further. He became a ship owner and is recorded as complaining that his ships had been detained by the King of Queddah. In 1760 he had become Import Warehouse Keeper and in 1765 he became Chief at Cossim/Kassim Bazaar and eleventh on the Governor’s Council. As a result of his position he was one of several Company officials, who customarily obtained handsome “presents” when new appointments were made to the position of Nawab of Bengal. On Najam-ud-dowla’s succession to that post, due in part to efforts of Senior and others, the usual generous presents were made and, according to Parliamentary records, Senior himself received 20,125 - a sum worth several millions at today's prices. Ascanius starts to appear in the indexes of 'Home Miscellaneous Records' (Volume 200) - A Narrative of Proceedings of the Bengal Council in 1765 and 1766 relative to the restitutions made to France by Great Britain in the Provinces of Bengal and Bihar...': 'The French Factory at Bihar was restored by John Cartier, that at Saidabad by William Ascanius Senior, Chief of Cossimbazar'. From 1766 Ascanius starts to feature in correspondence from Lord Clive with regard to the intrigues by the Bengal merchants against the imposition of Madras Councillors by Clive and the London Directors, and in the long running scandals over succession to the position of Nawab of Bengal, following the death of Mir Jaffa. This event occurred in 1765, only six months after Mir Jaffa had been re-established in his position as Nawab. Ascanius Senior’s presence in Murshidad, the 'capital' of the Mogul Province of Bengal, was crucial to the subsequent elevation of Mir Jaffir’s semi-imbecile son, Najam-ud-dowla, to this position, and the assumption by the East India Co. of the power to make all appointment to the Nawab’s Council. In a letter dated 30th Sept 1765, Lord Clive and the Select Committee wrote to the Court of Directors on the subject of Najam-ud-dowla: 'a deputation consisting of Messrs Johnstone, Senior, Middleton and Leycester was appointed to raise the natural son of the deceased Nabob to Subahdary, in prejudice to the claim of his grandson'; 'Najam-ud-dowla succeeded to the Musnud during the Government of Mr. Spencer, when Mr. Johnstone, and Mr. Leycester were sent to Murshidabad, where Mr. Senior and Mr. Middleton then were...'. Ascanius resigned from the East India Company, after 13 years service, in late 1766, almost certainly as a result of being forced to appear before a Select Committee staffed by four of Lord Clive’s followers to account for his gains.

Ascanius Senior returned to England a very wealthy man. He had a house in Mayfair in London, and became a shareholder in the Company. He bought Pierrepont Lodge, Frensham, near Farnham (a school until 1993 and now an 'international healing and residential centre'; the current house is 19th century) from the 2nd Duke of Kingston in 1771, which he sold before buying the Pylewell Estate in 1780 from Sir Richard Worsley for 22,000. This included the mansion, the manors of Pilley and Warbourne and a number of farms such as Vinings, East End, Walhampton, Pitts Deep, Nash and Blackhamsley. In addition, by 1784 Senior had purchased the manor of South Baddesley from the Arundells, and so created a much enlarged estate based on Pylewell. The estate was sold in 1787 to Thomas Robbins for 32,000. Ascanius Senior was appointed High Sheriff of Hampshire for the year 1777/8, a singular social achievement even for a 'Nabob' in an age when pedigree was of greater importance than money. Ascanius died at Canon Hill House, Bray, on 24th October 1787 at the age of 59 years.

Birth:

1728, second son of Aaron Senior (d. 1736) and his wife Elizabeth Baldrick.

Marriages:

1. Helen Jekyll (b. 1733).

2. Charlotte Walter, daughter of John Abel Walter, on 5 May 1768 at St George’s, Hanover Square, London.

Children:

By Helen Jekyll:

1. Helen baptised 7 Dec 1763 in Calcutta.

By Charlotte Walter:

1. Nevillia Senior (b. 25 Jan 1769 d. 17 Dec 1842).
2. Georgianna Senior (b. 1772 d. 1773) (dsp).
3. Charlotte Maria Senior (b. 1773).
4. Ascanius William Senior (b. 1775 d. 1778) (dsp).
5. George Senior (b. 1778 d. 1778) (dsp).

 

Pylewell today.

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