The origins and history of Catton are rich with stories of valour, intrigue, conquest, love and loss, much of it evoked by the many paintings in the Catton Collection. The Horton family and their descendants have been at Catton since 1405 when it was purchased from the descendants of the Norman Nigel D’Albini. He had been given the property by William the Conqueror for services rendered in the conquest of Britain in 1066, when Catton had been taken from its Saxon owner Siward.
The party from Ticknall Preservation and Historical Society who visited on 27 September 2022 were expertly guided through the house and its history by Katie Neilson – the present ‘Mrs Catton – senior’, as she confirmed in response to my enquiry when we first met.
The Hortons were staunch Royalists so lost favour with Oliver Cromwell who sacked Walter Horton from the office of High Sheriff of Derbyshire because of his allegiance to King Charles I. A portrait of Walter Horton hangs in the Drawing Room. It is one of the earliest of the family portraits in the Catton Collection which contains several portraits of the Royal Family of the House of Stewart – Charles I, his wife and children, Charles II, James II and Prince Rupert who look down from the walls together with their friends and enemies.
The original architect of the present house was the celebrated James Gibbs who designed many well-known buildings including Derby Cathedral and St. Martins in the Fields. However, the work was completed by Smith of Warwick in 1745 – at a cost of £7000. Originally, the carriages drew up at the South Terrace and the present Dining Room was the entrance Hall. This involved removal of some pillars, the effects of which are very apparent in the sloping first-floor passage and the floor in the Bedroom above the Dining Room.
Among the many paintings in the Catton Collection is a portrait of Anne Willoughby, daughter of the 6th. Lord Willoughby of Parham. She became the wife of Sir John Harpur, 3rd Bt. of Calke Abbey and Katie Neilson was extremely accommodating in allowing me to take a photograph with which to upgrade the image that we have in Celia Sanger and Norman Monahan’s excellent series covering the ten baronets of Calke Abbey.
The next TPHS event will be at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, 25 October when Karen Kreft, well-known researcher, writer and Ticknall Life contributor will give a talk on the history of Gamekeeping and how it worked, using Calke Abbey as an example.