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Steve Milton

The Comptons of Compton Wynyates

In 1204, Philip de Compton was living at Compton Wynyates with Basilea his wife. It has been suggested that he is the same person as Philip de Arden, and that he took the name Compton when he became tenant of the manor.

Spencer Compton, 2nd Earl of Northampton

Spencer Compton
2nd Earl of Northampton

William (1482-1528), having been employed around the person of Henry VIII when Duke of York, obtained the confidence of the monarch; he was subsequently his companion in the tournament and battle, and holder of numerous offices and honours.

William (1568-1638) was created 1st Earl of Northampton, and was Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire.

The 2nd Earl, Spencer, was a godson of Queen Elizabeth and during James I reign became a great favourite of Prince Charles, afterwards Charles I. On the latter's accession, the Earl was made master of the Robes. As a Royalist he was one of the most heroic of the Cavalier commanders.

He was appointed Commissioner of Array in the County of Warwick, and found himself in a stronghold of Parliamentarians, who, at the beginning of the Civil Wars, held the strong castles of Banbury, Warwick, Northampton and Broughton. He fought at the Battle of Edgehill, where he commanded 2000 men. Three of his sons were with him and were knighted on that occasion. The King spent most of the remainder of the war at his court in Oxford, and the most severe fighting took place at Banbury and in that neighbourhood, in which fighting the Earl and his young sons took a very prominent and gallant part. Banbury was taken and held by his son till the end of the war. He fell at the battle of Hopton Heath, March 19th, 1643. In that battle, just as it was won, his horse was killed under him; he was surrounded by the enemy and when offered his life "scorned to take quarter from such base rogues and rebels as they were".

Spencer was succeeded by his son James, 3rd Earl of Northampton. While an MP, he was amongst the "Staffordians" who in 1647 were against the Bill for attainting the Earl of Stafford (ally of the King), and who were subsequently expelled from the House. He was afterwards distinguished, with his father, under the Royal banner. At the restoration and magnificent entry of Charles II into the City of London in 1660, he headed a band of 200 gentlemen attired in grey and blue. He occupied several high positions until his death in 1681.

Spencer Compton, 2nd Marquess of Northampton

Spencer Compton
2nd Marquess of Northampton

George, 4th Earl, was Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire and Constable of the Tower of London. He was deprived of the former position for his opposition to James II, but recovered his honours on the accession of William and Mary. He was succeeded by James, 5th Earl, who was called to the House of Lords as Baron Compton in 1711, and at the coronation of George I bore the ivory rod with the dove.

In 1768 came the temporary ruin of the Compton family by gambling and a recklessly expensive Parliamentary election in Northampton. The contents of Compton Wynyates were sold, and have never been recovered. Spencer, the 8th Earl, living in Switzerland, had actually ordered his steward to demolish the house as he could not afford to keep it up; the steward, ignored the order and bricked up windows, escaping the window tax, instead. The family's fortunes were restored by Spencer's son Charles, 9th Earl and 1st Marquess, who married Maria Smith, an heiress.

Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton, Marquess, was a patron of science and the arts. In 1808 he entered Trinity College where he studied mainly mathematics. At Cambridge he acquired and cultivated wide intellectual tastes in science, literature and the fine arts.

Compton Wynyates - view across the Best Garden

Compton Wynyates
view across the Best Garden

In 1812 he succeeded the assassinated prime Minister (and relative) Spencer Percival as MP for Northampton, as a maverick Tory. He lost the seat in 1820, subsequently spending 10 years living in Italy with his wife, until her death following childbirth. After 1830, the rich, aristocratic widower began to transform himself into one of the "good and great" in polite cultural life. From 1849 until his death he was president of the Royal Society of Literature. He was a trustee of the National Gallery, and President of the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1838 he was elected President of the Royal Society. Although he was not a leading scientist he had a sustained interest in geology, on which he published three short papers.

In 1835 he had returned to Compton Wynyates to find the rain pouring in through most of the ceilings. He began repairs. His son also made alterations, both conducting their repairs from their residence at Castle Ashby.

William Compton 4th Marquess, with William, 6th and William, 5th Marquess

William Compton 4th Marquess
with William, 6th
& William, 5th Marquess

Spencer Joshua Alwyne had four sons: Charles, 3rd Marquess, William, 4th Marquess, Spencer Scott, and Alwyne, Bishop of Ely. Of these, William is the most likely to have been father to Joseph Ashby. Charles lived at Castle Ashby in 1858; the youngest.Alwyne was vicar of Castle Ashby by 1858 and lived at Chadstone Rectory. Spencer died in 1854 so the only possibility is William, who became 4th Marquess in 1877. Perhaps William was the son who was involved in making repairs to Compton Wynyates, basing himself at some point at nearby Idlicote.

The 5th Marquess, William George Spencer Scott, associate of Joseph Ashby, was the first after 1770 to reside at Compton. On his marriage in 1884, his father gave him the house, and in 1895 he designed and planted the Best Garden" to the south of the house in the field that had always been known by that name. He became Member of Parliament for the Stratford on Avon division and later Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire.

Contributed by Steve Milton
Email: stevemilton23(@)
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