Tales from the grave

The entry in the National Archives catalogue was intriguing.

Correspondence of Thomas Pares II to Huntriss, John. Relates to Lady Dixie“.

So why was John Huntriss (of Scarborough) in correspondence with Thomas Pares (of Leicestershire) – and who was Lady Dixie?

Thomas Pares II (1746-1824) was a wealthy lawyer and banker in London, who owned numerous properties including Narborough Hall and Greyfriars, Leicester. When his father died in 1805 Thomas inherited Hopwell Hall which he moved into following his father’s death in 1805.

Hopwell Hall, near Ockbrook in Derbyshire , which was in purchased by Thomas Pares I in 1786)

Derbyshire Record Office provided a copy of a letter written by Jonathan Huntriss in 1797. 

Worthy Sir

This is to acquaint you that we have got the job completed for Lady Dixie but not without some difficulty to keep peace and quietness. I found the stones full broad enough to get room for, but you are very right in your observation, they are not so broad as the vault outside walls by 5 inches they want 2 1/2 inches on each side but broader than the old tombstones full 9 inches which we had to remove of adjoining stones some 3 inches, some 6 inches and some 12 inches as you may see on the other side by the lines drawn and we could not add the slips on the side as you recommended. I was threatened by Mr Dodsworth for removing his father’s stone, but as we have now got finished I hope I shall hear no more about it. For there is some credit in the job it has made a great improvement in the floor the public are well pleased with it.

I remain your most humble servant at command

Jonathan Huntriss


Lady Margaret Dixie’s died in 1797, and her will shows that Thomas Pares junior was appointed as her executor.

But who was Lady Margaret Dixie – and why would Jonathan Huntriss of Scarborough be involved with someone who lived in Mansfield?

Bosworth Hall, in the rural town of Market Bosworth in Leicestershire, was the country seat of the Dixie family for nearly three hundred years.

Lady Margaret was the husband of Sir Wolstan Dixie, the 4th baronet. Sir Wolstan, charitably described as being “colourful”, had a reputation for being a pugnacious bully, with a penchant for using his fists to settle any dispute, which often set him at odds with his neighbours and even ex-employees.

Wolstan Dixie and family, 1755

Dixie was also “legendary for his ignorance” there is an amusing anecdote told about his violent encounter with a neighbouring squire who objected to Dixie barring access to a footpath across his land. The ensuing fight must have been memorable, for Dixie at least: when he was presented to the Germanic King George II at a levee as Sir Wolstan Dixie “of Bosworth Park”, the king, wanting perhaps to show some knowledge of important English battles, said, “‘Bosworth-Bosworth! Big battle at Bosworth, wasn’t it?’ ‘Yes, Sire. But I thrashed him’, replied Sir Wolstan, oblivious of any other fight than his own”.

The 4th Baronet was renowned for engaging ‘in lawsuits against the high and the low’- he would rush to the law over any little thing as is seen in his pursuit of his former servant Richard Paine over a couple of old shirts and a tatty wig. Richard was acquitted.

According to local legend, one of Sir Wolstan’s ill-conceived actions resulted in tragedy. He heard that his daughter Anne was surreptitiously meeting a young man in Bosworth Park and resolved to put a stop to the liaison. He put man-traps out to catch the young suitor but caught his daughter Ann instead. Although she was rescued from the trap and carried back to the hall, nothing could be done to staunch her wounds and she bled to death. Even today her ghost is said to haunt the hall – now a hotel.

The Dixie family, hugely influential in local matters, are commemorated at St Peter’s church in Market Bosworth. Could Jonathan Huntriss have been asked to some work here? Various members of the Dixie family are buried here (including Wolstan) – but no mention of Lady Margaret.



Wolstan had three wives. He was thirty-five when he married for the first time; his bride, Anne had been born in Barbados, the daughter and heiress of Tobias Frere, a governor of that island. Sadly, Anne died when giving birth to their third child.

 Wolstan married Theodisa Wright from Mobberley in Cheshire  in 1740, with who he had a further seven children. 

Theodisia died in 1751; two years later, Wolstan married Margaret Cross, son of William Cross from Seamer, just outside Scarborough. The marriage took place at St Mary’s Church in Scarborough in 1758.

Lady Dixie died aged 70; parish records show that she was buried not in the churchyard near to the Dixie family home, but at St Mary’s in Scarborough.

 Mystery solved.