At the time of the Domesday Survey, the land of Carlton was recorded as being held, along with 93 other Yorkshire manors, by Robert de Brus. This great holding was gradually subdivided over the following centuries. When Peter de Brus died in 1268, Carlton passed to his sister Laderine and her husband John de Bellew, whose daughter Sibyl de Bellew married Miles de Stapleton, 1st Baron Stapleton. On Sibyl Stapleton’s death in 1301, Carlton was inherited by Nicholas de Stapleton, the eldest son.
The ancestral line of Carlton of Yorkshire can hence be traced back to the Stapleton family who were most prominent in the Middle Ages. The Stapletons originally came from Stapleton-on-Tees, near Darlington, Richmondshire. The village and the surrounding area had been granted by William the Conqueror to a knight who would become known as Benedict de Stapleton. By the 13th century the ‘de Stapleton’ family were significantly powerful and subsequently settled in Yorkshire with branches of the family developing in Carlton and Bedale (and later in Wighill and Myton). Miles de Stapleton, 1st Baron Stapleton, had fought in Scotland under Edward I. He was Steward of the Household to Edward II and died at Bannockburn in 1314.
He left two sons, Nicholas (1280-1343) who inherited Carlton, and Sir Gilbert (1297-1321), who by marriage to Agnes Fitzalan brought the land of Bedale and Askham Bryan to the family. Sir Gilbert’s sons were among the most distinguished members of the family. Sir Miles Stapleton of Bedale (c.1320-1372) the eldest son, was one of the original 24 Knights of the Garter, a friend of the Black Prince and an expert tilter. Sir Bryan (c.1321-1394), the younger son, was Warden of Calais and was made a Knight of the Garter in 1382. He acquired the family crest, a Saracen’s head, by killing an infidel at a tournament in the presence of the Kings of Scotland, England and France. In 1374 the estates were passed to Sir Bryan and from him Carlton was passed to his young grandson, Brian Stapleton (c.1385-1418) who was the first of the family to live there.
Although there is known to have been a house on the site from at least the 14th century, nothing visible remains, nor are there any documentary records of it. There is no evidence for instance, that there was a private chapel in the medieval house at Carlton. However, the village church was a manorial chantry chapel associated with the Stapleton family.
The Carlton line of the family was continued thereafter with the descendants of Brian Stapleton, whose grandson, also named Brian, married (in about 1476) Joan Lovell, the niece and co-heiress of the second and last Viscount Beaumont.
The Beaumonts were descended from the princely Frankish House of Brienne, which had produced the last Christian King of Jerusalem (John I, b. 1148). This made the Stapletons heirs to the barony of Beaumont – a barony in fee, which could pass through the female line and be held by women. The last English titles in fee were created at the coronation of Richard II in 1377 and later English titles are entailed on male heirs only. The barony of Beaumont title was not, however, re-claimed by the family for over 300 years.
During the late 17th century, Carlton Hall, as it was known then, had a chaplain called Thomas Thwing, who was a cousin of the Stapletons. Interestingly, Thwing, along with Sir Miles (b.1626), was implicated in a plot devised by a couple of disgruntled servants who sought to punish their employer, Sir Thomas Gascoigne, 2nd Baronet of Barnbow and Parlington Hall, Yorkshire.
The servants had been dismissed because of dishonesty and so spoke out of a plot to kill the King, involving Sir Thomas, Sir Miles and others. At the beginning, the plot made no mention of Thwing, but he was soon implicated in its vicious web. Sir Thomas, Sir Miles, Thwing and others were all arrested. In the end, they were all acquitted apart from Thwing. He was hanged, drawn and quartered on 23rd October 1680 at Knavesmire just outside York. He was the last Catholic priest to be martyred in England.
At the time of James II’s flight from the throne in 1688 there was a further wave of anti-Catholic feeling and on 16th December a mob armed with guns and pitchforks broke into the house and carried off Sir Miles and some of his household as far as Ferry Bridge, where they were released without being harmed.
Miles married twice but had no sons. On his death in 1705, the barony became extinct and Carlton was left to his sister’s son, Nicholas Errington of Pontiland, Northumberland, who took the name of Stapleton. The Errington coat of arms, a silver shield with two bars and three shells azure, can be seen in the armorial quarterings of the large shield in the Venetian Room chimneypiece. Nicholas Stapleton’s second son, Thomas Stapleton, succeeded in 1750 and improved the estate and altered the house. He landscaped the park to a plan by Thomas White in 1765 and added the long East Wing, designed by Thomas Atkinson of York, to contain a new Neo-classical chapel and extensive stables, in 1777. Barred by his religion from entering politics or the army, Thomas Stapleton devoted himself to the turf. He was a keen breeder of horses, and pictures of some of them survive with their names inscribed -Tuberose, Miss Skeggs, Beaufremont, Magog and Cannibal. He raced in partnership with Sir Thomas Gascoigne, 8th Baronet, and together they won the first St. Leger with Hollondaise in 1778. The following year Thomas Stapleton won it on his own with Tommy. Some of their racing cups can be seen at Lotherton Hall, near Leeds, a former home of the Gascoignes.
In 1794 Thomas Stapleton made an unsuccessful claim to the dormant barony of Beaumont. It was only in 1840 that the claim was granted, when his great-nephew Miles Thomas Stapleton was called to the House of Lords as 8th Baron Beaumont. He celebrated his ennoblement by gothicising the house in 1842 to his own design.
Miles Thomas Stapleton also had literary aspirations, writing some rather poor plays and poems, but his chief interest was politics. Like several of the old Catholic families he objected to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England in 1850 and in protest joined the Church of England.
On his death in 1854 his eldest son was only six years old. Henry, 9th Lord Beaumont, belonged to the generation of the great Catholic revival in England. He was in Oxford with the 3rd Marquess of Bute, whose conversion to Catholicism inspired Disraeli’s novel Lothair, and David Hunter-Blair who also became a Catholic, a Benedictine monk and eventually Abbot of Fort Augustus. Soon after coming of age, Henry began the transformation of Carlton which occupied him for the rest of his life in between military adventures in distant lands. His extravagance led to the sale of the greater part of the estate. In 1888 he married Violet Wootton Isaacson, but there were no children from this marriage and on his early death from pneumonia in 1892, Carlton passed to his brother Miles, a regular soldier then commanding the 20th Hussars, having first joined the Coldstream Guards.
In 1893 Miles married Ethel, daughter and heiress of Sir Charles Henry Tempest of Broughton Hall, Skipton, and Heaton in Lancashire. She brought to Carlton many of the most interesting pictures and her fortune saved the house and remaining estate.
The 10th Lord Beaumont was tragically killed in a shooting accident, only three years after inheriting. As the barony could pass through the female line, Mona Josephine Tempest Stapleton became the 11th Baroness Beaumont in her own right. In 1914 she married Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, 3rd Lord Howard of Glossop, great-grandson of the 13th Duke of Norfolk, who until his death in 1972 was heir presumptive to the dukedom. They had eight children, the eight Ms: Miles, Michael, Marigold, Martin, Miriam, Miranda, Mirabel and Mark.
Lady Beaumont owned Carlton for 76 years, a period which saw two world wars and great social change. In the Second World War the house was used as an auxiliary military hospital but suffered little damage and was carefully restored to its original condition afterwards, at a time when many other large Victorian houses were being demolished.
Her eldest son, Miles Francis Stapleton Fitzalan Howard, inherited both the Beaumont and Howard of Glossop baronies, becoming the 12th Baron Beaumont. In 1975 he succeeded his cousin as 17th Duke of Norfolk and Earl Marshall of England. He then married Anne Mary Constable-Maxwell, great grand-daughter of the 10th Baron Herries. They had two sons and three daughters – Edward William, who is now the 18th Duke of Norfolk, Lord Gerald Fitzalan Howard, Lady Tessa (Countess Balfour), Lady Carina Frost and Lady Marsha George.
Lord Gerald Fitzalan Howard, his wife Emma and their children, Arthur, Florence and Grace now live at Carlton Towers.
Gerald and Emma moved up to live at Carlton in November 1990. Their first baby, Arthur, was one month old and nobody had lived at Carlton Towers for 20 years. Cold and dark as it was, Emma immediately set about making the house a home once more. The new kitchen was followed by a nursery, then bedrooms for Arthur, Flossy and Grace who soon came along.
Another 20 years on and Carlton Towers is still cosy as it was. Emma is still using her decorating passion and prowess, having recently redesigned an entire wing of existing bedrooms and opened up new ones in The Baroness and Clock Tower.