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After The Civil War




After the Civil War the younger of Sir John’s brother Thomas had to pay £2,200 to the Committee for Compounding in 1655 to regain possession of his Derbyshire estates. He died in the following year, leaving an infant son later known as Colonel John Coke, who went to live at Melbourne Hall with his wife Mary Leventhorpe in 1673. The unfortunate Mrs Coke bore seven children in eight years and promptly died. She is portrayed with her husband in the attractive double portrait by Sir Peter Lely alongside Sir John’s portrait. Colonel Coke raised a troop of horse for the 4th Earl of Devonshire’s regiment in the 1688 Revolution. William III later rewarded the Earl by creating him 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1694. Colonel & Mrs Coke’s eldest son Thomas married the daughter of Earl and Countess of Chesterfield, Mary Hale. Thomas Cooke (1675-1727) had inherited the house 1696. He became Vice Chamberlain to Queen Anne and George I, and therefore spent the greater part of this time in London, where he had a house in St. James’s Place.


Back at Melbourne, it was his unmarried sister Elizabeth (‘Betsy’) who managed his household affairs and cared for Mary and Elizabeth, the two children of Thomas’s first marriage. The house was securely propped in 1708 even though Thomas had contemplated the rebuilding of the house since 1700, but he was undecided on how to proceed, and did not make up his mind until the 1720s. He was much more interested in his new garden, (link to Gardens) and did not turn his attention to the house until it was properly finished around about 1722. By 1725, Coke had reluctantly concluded that the existing layout of the hall, with fronts facing east and south, made the most advantageous use of the site. Accordingly he at last resolved to remodel the house by entirely rebuilding the east and west wings, and partially remodelling the remainder.


The west wing determined the outline that the matching east wing must copy, but Thomas Coke died in 1727 and his only son George Lewis did not come of age until 1736. George was the last of the Melbourne Cokes who died a bachelor in 1751 without a male heir; Melbourne therefore passed via his sister Charlotte to his brother-in-law Matthew Lamb.


Matthew Lamb was a nouveau-riche lawyer who had been involved with Melbourne in a professional capacity since the 1730s. It was Matthew and Charlotte’s grandchildren by their son Peniston who were the most colourful and interesting generation of the Lamb family. Indeed Peniston’s wife, the first Lady Melbourne was a formidable character from an old Yorkshire family. Although her morals may have been questionable, her beauty, wit and calculating shrewdness earned her widespread respect and admiration, even from people (especially women) who did not like her. By instinct she was socially competitive this sometimes made her appear hard.


Her favourite son’s William Lamb’s disastrous marriage to Caroline Ponsonby is well known. Caroline’s affair with Lord Byron in 1812-13 virtually broke up the marriage. Byron at first found her a fascinating and ‘exaggerated woman’, but eventually discovered he had more in common with the solid characteristics of her mother-in-law. Lady Melbourne, manipulative as ever, won Byron’s trust and re-directed him towards her equally unsuitable niece Annabella Milbanke, who later became Byron’s wife.



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