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The Ancient Feudal Manor and Lordship
of Winterborne St. Martin (Dorsetshire)

The family of Sturt

Sir Gerard Napier, died childless in 1765, and the estates came to his only surviving niece Diana, who married Humphrey Sturt, lord of the nearby Manor of Horton. He was Member of Parliament for Dorest from 1745-1786. He owed his wealth to his father, Sir Anthony Sturt, who had been a successful business man and City of London alderman and Victualler to the Navy.

The energetic, ambitious and wealthy Humphrey Sturt wanted more than that just one house with a setting of comparable splendor. At Horton he had already created a 200 acre lake, and he resolved to indulge this whim again at Moor Crichel, albeit on a smaller scale. There was only one difficulty: the cottages of the village were in the way.The site of the former village of Moor Crichel now lies submerged beneath the waters of the lake. The entire village was moved to what is now called New Town at Witchampton, leaving only the church (rebuilt in 1850) and a carefully contrived landscape in front of the classical mansion.

Horton Tower and link to further details




Horton Tower

Picture of Crichel House after its re-building in 1850
The site of the former village of Moor Crichel now lies submerged beneath the waters of the lake. The entire village was moved to what is now called New Town at Witchampton, leaving only the church (rebuilt in 1850) and a carefully contrived landscape in front of the classical mansion

The site of the old village disappeared under the waters of a large crescent-shaped lake, around which was planted an elegantly landscaped park. The residents were moved to houses in nearby Witchampton.

Humphrey Sturt anticipated by little more than five years a similar act perpetrated by Lord Milton at Milton Abbas. The difference is that there a planned new village was created out of Milton's sight which is admired by today's visitors.

Humphrey Sturt had many ideas for the improvement of agriculture, which he introduced both in the Crichels and on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbor. He used steam power for threshing and transformed Brownsea Island by importing vast quantities of manure and planting new crops. The estates passed to Humphrey Sturt's younger son..

Charles Sturt (1764-1812). He lived at Brownsea Castle in Poole Harbour. At this time his tenants in Martinstown were Edward Balston and William Hawkins. As a boy he served in the Royal Navy, seeing action in the West Indies during the American War for Independence.

1769 would be a fateful year for Europe, for England and Martinstown for it saw the births of Napoleon, Wellington and on the April 5th in the village, the man who would become Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, G.C.B.

American War of Independance logo and link to website

Picture of Admiral Hardy and link to Kate Gallisons works on the man and his family
Thomas Masterman Hardy

Five years after his death a monument to him was erected in 1844 at the top of Blackdown Hill above Martinstown.

Meanwhile, Charles Sturt at the age of twenty-one, entered parliament as M.P for Bridport. He had an undistinguished parliamentary career, though always spoke with great feeling in debates on matters of national security. This interest would lead to problems in later life and one must question whether he acted as a government agent or as a bumbling amateur.

picture of Hardy's Monument and link to Hardy Monument page

He possessed a great fortune and was noted for his unbounded philanthropy. In February 1799, he saved the lives of a ship's crew, whose ship was wrecked near his home at Brownsea Castle. He offered 100 guineas to any person who would save them. The sea was running high, and every one declined. He made for his boat and this encouraged the rest to follow and between them they saved the crew.

He was a keen sailor and owned a fast sailing cutter, that he kept at Weymouth. Early in the morning of September 20 1800, he, went out and being a short distance from shore, he challenged Mr Thomas Weld of Lulworth Castle against his cutter.

Sturt's cutter was held back as a small rowing boat was fastened to her stern. He ordered a boy to take the boat to shore, as it slowed his sailing. However, the sea was once again running high and the boy being afraid, refused. Mr Sturt jumped into the boat which then drifted a considerable distance out to sea and he was feared drowned.

Brownsea Castle

Brownsea Castle
20th September 2003
Photograph - Gerald Duke


Hutchins recites that "Divine Providence prevailed". Some transport ships, which were carrying troops to the Channel Islands, put back to Weymouth because of adverse winds and he was rescued. The Welds were early pioneers of competition racing and their enthusiasm would contribute towards what would become the Americas Cup Yacht racing series.

He had married the Right Honorable Mary Anne Ashley Cooper at a young age. They were not happy and when she had an affair with the Marquis of Blandford, son of the Duke of Marlborough, Sturt brought a civil action against him for £20,000.00.

The case in May 1801 caused a sensation but when it as revealed that Sturt himself had had a long association with a German lady called Madame Krumpholtz, he was awarded token damages of £100.00. There is no doubt that despite the fact that he was the master of a large estate, Sturt was in financial difficulties and this combined with the social embarrassment of the revelations of the court case, persuaded him to go aboard. This would lead to five years imprisonment in France. On his return, Sturt attempted to take up the threads of his former life with the idea of putting up for the parliamentary seat again. The offer was declined as the long years of imprisonment had taken a heavy toll on his health and he was out of touch with affairs in this country. Charles Sturt died at Brownsea Castle on 12th May 1812, aged forty-eight. His years in France were a bizarre mixture of high living and personal privation, but his resilience and capacity to make the best of bad situations enabled him to survive. Charles Sturt was far removed from the angels, with many faults and weaknesses, but he was obviously not a mundane character and one whom those who knew him in his lifetime must have remembered with affection. Charles Sturt's son,

Henry Charles Sturt.(1795-1866) would be the next lord of the manor.

He followed his father and in very early life became MP for Bridport, which borough he represented from 1817 to 1819. He was MP for Dorchester from 1820 to 1821 and for the county of Dorset from 1835 to 1846. He and his cousin Lord Ashley, the eminent Earl of Shaftsbury, honourably resigned their seats because of the change that had taken place over the issue of the repeal of the Corn Laws.

Though never engaging himself actively or prominently in party politics, Mr Sturt was nevertheless a man of mark in his generation. His naturally acute and inquiring mind was full of information on a vast variety of topics and he was gifted with an unusually genial temperament and great conversational powers. As a landlord he has left a decided impression on the county, and will long be recollected for his generosity with which he supported every well-concerted scheme for social improvement, not only on his own extensive and well-managed estates, but elsewhere.

Another Charles Sturt was the nephew of Charles Sturt (above) and cousin of Henry Charles. He was born in Chunar Ghur in India and entered the army in 1813, as Ensign of the 39th Foot. He became a captain in the first battalion of the Dorset Regiment. In 1825, the regiment was sent to New South Wales to keep order among the convicts.This Charles Sturt was not alone in Australia. Other local personalities of the period to succeed there were William Wentworth from Merley House near Wimborne who championed the free Press and secured full responsible self government for New South Wales,Tom Roberts from Dorchester, a great Australian painter and the ornithologist, John Gould from Lyme Regis. Charles Sturt died in Cheltenham in 1869
Henry Gerrard Sturt
the eldest son of Henry Charles Sturt would be the next lord of the Manor. He was born in 1825. He married Lady Augusta Bingham the eldest daughter of George Lucan the 3rd Earl of Lucan in 1853. He also served as a member of Parliament for almost thirty years. Between 1847 and 1856 he served Dorset and Dorchester until 1876 when he was created Baron Alington of Crichel. During his career he took a turn as deputy Lieutenant for Dorset.

The Alington name dated back to the time of King William I to Sir Hildabrand de Alington who was Under Marshall at the Battle of Hastings. Sir Alan de Alington was in great favour with William Rufus "as a great devisor of building" and was said to be the "chief doer" for the building of Westminster Hall This was also the site of the first true English parliament to include elected representatives, summoned by Simon de Montfort in 1265. Over the decades the name became associated with Irish peerages until the marriage of a co-heiress of Giles the 3rd Baron when she married Nathanial Napier.

Picture of Humphry Napier Sturt the 
	 Baron Alington
Humphrey Napier
(Sporting Gazetter and Agricultural Journal
15th October 1892)

The Honourable Humphrey Napier, Baron Alington (1859-1919)
the second baron and son of Henry Gerrard Sturt, was the last member of the Sturt family to hold the manor of Martinstown. Between 1881 and 1889 he was a lieutenant in the Dorset Yeomanry cavalry and like his father, he was a keen sportsman and a respected breeder of racehorses. He followed in the family tradition as a member of parliament, firstly for the constituency of Christchurch and later for East Dorset. He was also to take a turn as deputy Lieutenant for Dorset.

His London home was at 38 Portman Square and the Alington household was the hub of the big wheel of Edwardian fashion and society. Baron Alington also owned conserable tracts os slum property in London and in property in Dorset, Of his Dorset properties and in addition to the Crichel Estate he also owned estates at Martinstown, Woodford and Forston, in each case including most or all of these villages, and also land and property in Dorchester and elsewhere. Baron Alington held the most famous of all shoots in the county at his Crichel home where the King was known to visit and aslo a rough shoot at Woodsford. said to be the best in the country.

Both as Prince of Wales and King, Edward VII was a close friend of Lord Alington and a frequent visitor to Crichel during the shooting season. Another visitor was Lady Randolph Churchill. In a letter (Churchill Papers, CHAR 28/61/41-42) of reply from the Prince of Wales, he said that he was glad that she was enjoying her visit to Crichel House, despite her accounts of her host Lord Alington. One can only wonder what the noble lord had done to upset his house guest.

Some of Lord Alington's various farms and other land comprising the Manor of Winterborne St. Martin were tenanted by Edward Barnaby Duke. In 1914, Mr Duke purchased much of the Martinstown property together with the Lordship of the Manor from Baron Alington.

Picture of the Prince of Wales and link to various house guests and others
Prince of Wales

The story of the Sturts is an interesting. The male line ended with the death of his Humphrey Sturt's grandson, the third Baron, Napier George Henry Sturt Alington ("Naps" for short) in 1940. He continued as a trustee of the Nappers Mite almshouses.

Napier Alington
Naps studied banking in New York and became romantically linked with the society actress, Tallulah Bankhead. She was noted for her beauty, husky voice, and sophistication.

Born in Huntsville, Alabama, she was the daughter of William Brockman Bankhead, Democratic Party leader and speaker of the United States House of Representatives (1936-40). Her autobiography recounts he proposed to her shortly after they met, but she was more interested in her career than marriage.

She first met Naps when she was appearing in Nice People. When he returned to England, she immediately booked passage on the Majestic and followed him and they resumed their affair. Napier was charming and reckless

Baron, Napier George Henry Sturt Alington was killed in action during the Battle of Britain. His 18,000 acre Crichel estate passed to his only child, Lady Mary Anne Sturt and she remains the owner until her death in 2010.

The family became embroiled in two high profile legal battle following the requisition of their land at Crichel for the war effort. In 1938 the Air Ministry was looking for a stretch of uninhabited land suitable for a practice bombing range. Its choice fells upon the 725 acres of Crichel Down, lying partly in the parish of Long Crichel. This belonged to the Sturts and two other local landowners. A sale was agreed, and in 1941 in the House of Commons, Churchill gave a pledge that the land would be returned to the landowners when the war was over. There followed a celebrated legal action in the 1950's that led to the resignation of Churchill's Minister of Agriculture, Sir Thomas Dugdale.

The celebrated Battle of Crichel Down began when it was revealed that, after clearing the land of munitions, the War Office had transferred it to the Ministry of Agriculture for the establishment of a model farm to be used for the demonstration of intensive farming methods. Lt.Commander George Marten, who had married the heiress (Mary Anna Sturt)of the Crichel estate in 1949 launched a campaign for the return of the land to its pre-war owners. The enquiry became a cause celebre forcing the return of the land. It established the 'Crichel Down Rule', and from that time the Government had been bound to offer back for sale to the last civilian landowners, requisitioned land no it longer needed. The name Crichel Down became, for a long time after, a symbol of bureaucratic inefficiency if not worse

A second High Court action would follow concerning the Tarrant Rushton airfield near Crichel which lasted into the 1980's.Although a case that concerned issues of trust law it nevertheless involved requisitioned land belonging to the Sturt family. This time there were no ministerial resignations.

So for now the story of the Sturt family should end and a return made to 1914 when the Duke family would become the Lords of the Manor of Martinstown.

Sea Vixen

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