Ellerton, Charborough & Olantigh

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The Drax family held lands in Kent (Geoffrey Drax in 1154), at Woodhall, Darfield, Yorkshire (Thomas Drax, priest, in 1516), and Stoneleigh, Warwick (Rev. William Drax in 1654), Ellerton Abbey (sons, William & James Drax from 1654). Boston, Lincolnshire (brother, Henry Drax in 1663).

The location of their 'lands in Kent' are unkown to me at present. I have now traced the site of Woodhall, near Darfield, Yorks. Ellerton Abbey is the earliest known still-existing residence of the Drax family of Yorkshire, having been obtained by Gabriel Drax in 1581/2, shortly after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.

A descendant of this line married an heiress of the Ernle-Erle family of Charborough Park, Dorset and subsequently, following other heiress marriages, the family also owned: Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent; Holnest House, Dorset; Woolbridge House, near Wool, Dorset; and Bilting House, Kent, plus several other estates.

William Drax, of London, Merchant, died about 1672

The above is a receipt for £500.00, dated 5th February 1672, and signed by Ursula Drax, the widow of William Drax, of London, Merchant; she was the executrix of his estate. Her rabbit-like seal appears to have been a ‘hare’. ‘Recd. the fifth day of February Anno Domini 1672 by me Ursula Drax of London widow the relict and Executrix of the last will and testament of William Drax late of London Merchant decd of and from Robert Bird of Staples Inne London Gent the sum of five hundred pounds of lawful money of England being the consideration and expressed to be paid to me by him in and by a certaine Indenture of Assignment of the date hereof made between Mary Parrey of London widow the relict and Executrix of the last will and testament of John Parrey late of London Scrivener decd of and by? me the said Ursula Drax of the one part and the said Robert Bird and John Bird of Staples Inne aforesaid Gentleman of the other part Witness my hand and seale the day and year above written. U: Drax. Witness hereto: William Yonge?, John Adams, Arthur Myles his servt.

[I am indebted to Graham Clark for this considerable kindness in selling me the above document, at the original cost, after he found this website whilst researching it. If you have any such family-related documents, I would be delighted to receive a scanned copy, or to purchase the original if available.]

                   arms by Chris Drakes

The Drax Arms: Chequy or and az. On a chief gu. Three ostrich feathers in plume issuant of the first. Crest: A demi dragon with wings endorsed or, out of his mouth a scroll with Motto: 'Mort en droit'. These 'Drax' Arms were originally awarded to Sir Edward Drax, who was knighted by The Black Prince in April 1367 at the Battle of Navaret, in modern-day northern Spain; hence the 'Prince of Wales' feathers. The first actual documentary record of them, that I can find so far, are in the 16th Century Herald's Visitations of Yorkshire. A later descendant of a brother's line, via a younger son of the family, was knighted by The Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, during the Commonwealth and this was later confirmed by Charles II on his accession after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. His descendants, via several female lines to the present-day, are the Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax family, of Charborough Park, Dorset; these arms appear on the main gate there. It is interesting that a descendant of this line was Sir Henry Drax, who was Secretary to the Prince of Wales in 1744. There are numerous 'Drax' & 'Drakes' in the world, some of whom may descend from the same origin via a pure male-to-male line.

Two gold Seals with the Drakes Arms lost or stolen in 1686

These seals were undoubtedly intended for Henry Drax, the sugar plantation and slave owner of Barbados and London. It is interesting that it refers to them as 'Drakes Arms' and not 'Drax Arms', since, though the names are interchangeable, he was almost always referred to as 'Henry Drax'; there were no other extremely wealthy 'Drax' or 'Drakes' men at this time:

Gazette Issue 2177, published on the 27 September 1686. Printed by Tho. Newcomb in the Savoy. 1686. `Advertisements. Lost or stolen since the 20th of May last, a Bunch containing 30 odd Seals, whereof the most remarkable, one Seal of the Lord Howard of Escricks, and the Drakes Coats of Arms cut in Cornelian, set in Gold, Enamelled in black and White. Another in a mixed coloured Cornelian, with the Drakes Arms and Crown over it. One Cornelian Seal, a Mouse running after an Apple set in Gold. One other Cornelian Seal, with a Turkish Character set in Gold. One Gold Hart with a Cipher of Gold under the Chrystal, on the other side under the Chrystal, a Pearl Hart struck through with Dart, and an Earls Crown over it, set with Diamonds, &c. Lord Howards Arms and Quarterings, and his Ladies. Whoever gives Notice thereof so Mr. Richard Hoar at the Golden Bottle in Cheapside, shall have 10 Guinea's Reward.'

Ellerton Abbey, Swaledale, Yorkshire

The old 'Ellerton Abbey' Abbey ruin in 1855, from a painting, and 1930s, from a postcard.

Near the river Swale, in Swaledale, Yorkshire, are the ruins of Ellerton Priory (Ellerton Abbey). At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, about 1538/9, it was valued at £15 10s. 6d. In 1581/2 the site and demesnes of Ellerton Abbey came into the possession of Gabriel Drax, a younger son of the 1126 tree, from whom they have descended in unbroken succession to Sarah Charlotte Elizabeth Ernle-Erle-Drax who in 1871 married John Lloyd Eggington. In 1887, by letters patent, she resumed her maiden name.

                                                                        Photo with kind permission of Hugh Mortimer ©

'Ellerton Priory' ruin at Ellerton Abbey, Yorks.

                                                                       Photo with kind permission of Hugh Mortimer ©

'Ellerton Abbey' house at Ellerton Abbey, Yorks.

Her Serene Highness Elizabeth, Margrave of Brandenburgh, Anspach, and Bayreith, Princess Berkeley of the Holy Roman Empire, and Dowager Baroness Craven of Hempsted, in Berkshire.

Lady Elizabeth Berkeley, Lady Craven of Hamstead Marshall, ‘The Margravine of Anspach’, was born on 17.12.1750 at Spring Gardens, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, Middx. She was christened on 6.1.1750/1 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, Middx. She died on 12/13.1.1828  at Craven Villa, near Naples (Napoli), Italy, and was buried in the British Cemetery there.

He mother was: Elizabeth Drax, Countess of Berkeley, of Ellerton Abbey, Yorks., who was born in 1720, the daughter of Henry Drax and Elizabeth Ernle. She died on 29.6.1792 at Berkeley, Gloucs., aged 72, and was buried on 30.6.1792 at Berkeley Castle, Gloucs. She was Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princess of Wales in 1745. On 7.5.1744, she first married Lt. Col. Augustus Berkeley, 4th Earl of Berkeley, K.T., at St. James, Westminster, Middx.; he was the 17th Baron Fitzhardinge, 4th Earl of Berkeley, and a distinguished military officer. He was the great grandson of Charles II. He was born on 18.2.1715/6, the son of James Berkeley and Louisa Lenox. He died on 9.1.1755 at Berkeley, Gloucs., aged 39, and was buried on 17.1.1755 at Berkeley, Gloucs.

There are numerous Internet sites available, especially under 'Margravine of Anspach', via google.com

Thomas Erle Drax 1748 bookplate

Charborough Park, Dorset

NB. This image is copyright, and is shown here by grateful permission of a private collector.

Sarah Frances Drax, the daughter and heir of Edward Drax of Charborough Park, Dorset. She was the great-great-grand-daughter of General Thomas Erle. On 11.3.1788, she married Richard Grosvenor, Esq., M. P. for West Looe and Chester, the nephew of Richard first Earl Grosvenor; he assumed the name of Erle Drax upon marriage. She died on 15.6.1822; he died on 8.2.1819. They had three children: Jane Frances Erle Drax, born 25.12.1788; Louisa Erle Drax, who died young; & Richard Edward Erle Drax, of Ellerton Abbey, Yorks., born in March 1797, who died unmarried and without issue on 18.8.1828. Jane Frances Erle-Drax married John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge, who assumed the surname and arms of Erle-Drax upon marriage.

'J.S.W.S.E. Drax Esq., Charborough Park' - from The Book of Sports, British and Foreign, 1843.

The gilt bronze Arms of John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax from his private coach.

John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax Esquire of Charborough Park, Dorset and Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent.
He was born on 6.10.1800 at Wye, Kent. He died on 5.1.1887, aged 86.

John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax mounted statue at Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent.

c1840s buttons from the Charborough Hunt.

Scarce hunting-jacket buttons from the Charborough Hunt, dating about 1840/50; the reverse of each is marked with, 'Extra Rich Gilt - London'. Those with the name 'Charbro Hunt' and a fox's head were probably only used for the Master and Members of the Charborough Hunt who rode in red hunting livery; those with just the initials 'CH' were probably for the hunt staff. Several lots of these buttons came up in a Pardy & Son Auction in Dorset in 2010, some of them in the original 1840s sets of 24 buttons on cards, as supplied by the manufacturer.

John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge was aged 27, when he married Jane Erle-Drax-Grosvenor, the heiress of Charborough Park, Dorset. About 1840/50, he founded and conducted the Charborough Hunt until, after quarrelling with many of his neighbours, including the Farquharson family, he sold his fox-hunting pack. He also kept dogs that were trained to hunt for truffles on his estates. John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax Esquire of Charborough Park, as a very wealthy man, would have only had 'the best' quality buttons manufactured for his hunt.

'The Sporting Magazine' of 1842 mentions The Charborough Hunt and the dispute with the Farquharsons.

Map of the Meets of Mr. Drax's Hounds - 1842
London: Published April 1, 1842 for the Proprietor of the Sporting Review, by I. Mitchell, 33, Old Bond Street.

John Calcraft (1765-1831), the former Tory who became a Whig in the election immediately after the 1831 Reform Bill, was associated with John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax, "Calcraft's Corfe Castle labourers joined with horsemen provided by John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax of Charborough Park to charge and rout the pro-Bankes mob." [see entry at the bottom of my page Worth Matravers]

Locations of the Meets  of the Drax Hounds and their distance in miles from Charborough Park: Bere Down 6; Bloxworth 5; Canford 8; Decoy House 5; Hanbury 3; Hyde 7; Keysworth 6; Lulworth 16; Lytchett Matravers 2; Morden 2; Muston Down 4; Spettisbury Down 3; Tarrant Crawford Gorse 7; Wool Bridge 12.

'Charborough: the Seat of Thos. Erle Drax Esq.' - from The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 1774

Charborough Park, the Seat of J.S.W.S. Erle Drax, Esq., from A Visitation of The Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain by John Bernard Burke, esq., 1852, showing the house and tower

'Charborough Park: The Seat of Miss Sawbridge Erle Drax' - drawn & engraved by J. H. Le Keux, Durham
published in History of Dorset by Hutchins, 1861

Charborough Park - The House and The Chapel

                                                                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes

'Stag Gate', which is well known to all travellers on the A31 between Dorchester and London.

Charborough Park near Almer, Dorset is a privately owned estate and a working farm; it is not open to the public. It is still in the ownership of an ancient Anglo-Norman family now named 'Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax', but usually known as just 'Drax'. The 'Drax' surname came to Charborough Park in 1720 on the marriage of an 'Erle' heiress of Charborough Park to Henry Drax. The family has descended down through four sons and four daughters lines since, the 'Drax' surname has been retained; this was initially by Royal Licence as the result of Henry Drax's Will. This Drax line originally came over from Normandy with Henry II in 1154 and were given lands in Kent; later generations were in Yorkshire, Warwickshire, London, Barbados, Dorset, and Kent and it is possibly also the origin of all the Drax, Drakes and Dracas lines that can be traced back to north Lincolnshire.

                                                                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes

'Lion Gate', 'Stag Gate', and the third stonework gate 'Blandford Lodge'; there are two further entrances along the A31, but without stone gateways.

                                                                                                                                                           photos by Chris Drakes

Various views of 'Stag Gate'. Although the stag appears to have five legs, the 'fifth leg' is actually a 'tree stump' originally incorporated into the sculpture to add strength, as can be clearly seen in the photos below. There are quite a few comments on-line and in publications that the stag has five legs so that it appears to have four when viewed from any angle, which is clearly imaginative but incorrect.

                                                           photos by Chris Drakes

Sadly, there are signs of damaged to the chest and front legs of the stag.
The tree stump, which is often mistaken as a 'fifth leg', can be clearly seen on the right.

                                                                                                            photos by Chris Drakes

The estate wall alongside the A31, and the stunningly beautiful entrance viewed through 'Lion Gate', which most travellers don't get a chance to glimpse at as they rush past. At 40mph, it takes over 3 minutes to pass alongside this extensive estate wall.

                                                                                            arms and photos by Chris Drakes

The motto from the Drax Arms 'Mort en Droit' is displayed on the 'Lion Gate'.

                                                                                                                                      photo by Chris Drakes

Charborough House set in beautiful parkland

                                                            photo by Chris Drakes

The Coach House and the Estate Office are at the rear Charborough House behind the family Chapel

In 1689, a plot was hatched, in the ice house here, to invite the Protestant monarchs William III (reigned 1689-1702) & Mary II (reigned 1689-1694) to the English throne, to replace her ousted father King James II (reigned 1685-1688), the younger brother of Charles II, the sons of Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649. This fact was comemorated nearly 100 years later by Thomas Erle Drax in 1780, when he caused a marble slab to be erected over the Ice House at Charborough Park, which read:


Peacock Lodge, with a small 'Buck' on top, inside the grounds on the main driveway to the house; the 'Buck' is much smaller than the 'Stag' on 'Stag Gate' in the perimeter wall.

                                                                                                                                      photo by Chris Drakes

'Peacock Lodge' is situated inside the grounds on the main driveway to the house. It is so named because several peafowl used to be fed and cared for near to the lodge; it also has circular 'eye' windows rather reminiscent of those found on Peacock feathers.

                                                                                                                                      photo by Chris Drakes

Open grassland in Charborough Park, which was once a deer park.

Visit the Charborough Park Estate website for more pictures and information: charborough.co.uk

                                                                                                                                      photo by Chris Drakes

Scrubland inside 'Stag Gate', which has no road leading through it.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), the English novelist and poet, based most of his fictional works around Dorchester where he grew up; they were originally published in serial form in magazines. In his books Dorset was referred to as 'South Wessex', and Corfe Castle was his 'Corvsgate-Castle' in his 'Hand of Ethelberta', first published in 1876. Two of his books were associated with Drax properties: Charborough House, with its folly tower, was the basis of his 'Welland House' in 'Two on a Tower', first published in 1882; though his actual 'tower' was based on Weatherby Castle. Woolbridge old Manor House, near Wool Railway Station, was his scene for Tess’s confession and honeymoon in 'Tess of the d’Urbervilles', first published in 1891.

Old Magic-latern glass slide by H. Lea - Charborough Park: "Two on a Tower"

Charborough Tower

                                                                                                                                      photo by Chris Drakes

Charborough Tower as seen from near the house

Charborough Tower is a folly within the park, that was built by Edward Drax in 1790; it was later damaged by lightning and was rebuilt, 40 feet higher than the original tower, by John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax in 1838. It is now over 100 feet high and, if you can climb the 161 steps on one of the few days when the Tower is open to the public, it has views as far as the Isle of Wight on a clear day. But it can't be seen from the main road outside the gates.

The bodies of Henry Drax and his wife Elizabeth Ernly (Ernle), the daughter of Sir Edward Ernly, were buried in the family crypt beneath the Private Chapel at Charborough House, as was their eldest son, Thomas Erle Drax, who died in 1790, aged 67. Henry & Elizabeth Drax had ten children. Their second son, Edward Drax, was the first person to excavate Silbury Hill in Dorset, which he did on behalf of The Duke of Northumberland in 1776. The only surviving record of this excavation, a letter from Edward Drax to the Duke of Northumberland, was discovered by Brian Edwards, who published his excellent research in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Magazine 103 (2010) pp. 257-268, with a full transcript of the correspondence from Edward Drax. As a direct result of Brian Edward's research English Heritage staff obtained a copy of this letter from the National Archives and details have also appeared in their extensive 2010 publication covering all the excavations at Silbury Hill to date, and their conclusions as to its possible origins and purpose.

Inside Charborough House

The Armoury & Picture Gallery at Charborough House, Dorset


The Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax family of Charborough Park, Dorset

The Crests of Ernle (left), Drax (centre) & Plunkett (right)
Shields: Drax (top left); Erle (top right); Ernle (bottom left); Plunkett (bottom right)

The arms of the Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax family of Charborough Park

Admiral The Honourable Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, K.C.B., of Charborough Park, Dorset, was born on 28.8.1880 in London, the son of John William Plunkett and Ernle Elizabeth Louisa Maria Grosvenor Burton. He died on 16.10.1967 at Poole, Dorset. On 15.4.1916, he married Kathleen Media I. Chalmers, who born on 17.7.1893 at Glasgow, Scotland. She became The Honourable Kathleen, Lady Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax. She died in 1980.

                                                                     photo by Chris Drakes

A fob-calendar stamp-box, and a fob seal-matrix with an 'RD' stamp inside that once belonged to Admiral Reginald Drax, who was Commander-in-Chief of Plymouth Station, Devonport from 1935 to 1938.

Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax.

                                                                                                                                      photo by Chris Drakes

An inkstand presented to The Honourable Kathleen, Lady Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, and engraved, 'The keel plate of H.M.S. Birmingham was laid at Devonport Dockyard by The Honble. Lady Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax wife of the Commander-in-Chief on Thursday July 18th 1935.'

                                                                  photo by Chris Drakes

H.M.S. Birmingham 1935

H.M.S. Birmingham, a 558 foot 'Town' class light cruiser, was built at Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, and launched on the 1st September 1936. She saw extensive service during World War II, and was finally broken up in 1960.

The fictional character 'Hugo Drax' from the James Bond series.

In 1939, Admiral Drax's mission was to bring Russia into WWII on the British & French side. The German Ambassador was more persuasive, so Admiral Drax failed to avert the initial German-Soviet pact; however, the Russians changed sides later in the War and became British & American allies. Admiral Drax is reputed to have been disliked by Ian Flemming, who was in Naval Intelligence during WWII; Flemming apparently named his fictional bad guy 'Hugo Drax' in his James Bond books, and thus in the later Bond films, after Admiral Drax.


Almer Church

                                                                                                                                                                                      photos by Chris Drakes

Almer, Dorset, is a small hamlet immediately opposite to the entrance to Charborough Park. In the Sanctuary of the small church, behind the altar, there is a stained glass memorial window, which shows the angel at the entrance to Christ's tomb, announcing: `He is not here - He is risen - As he said' and, in the bottom right corner: `Erected to the Glory of God & to the memory of Sarah Charlotte Elizabeth Ernle-Erle-Drax by her daughter Ernle Lady Dunsany'. Wanley Elias Sawbridge-Erle-Drax was vicar of Almer, Dorset

Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent

'Olantigh in Kent, the Seat of John Sawbridge Esq.,'
publish'd as the Art directs Jan 1st 1786 by W. Watts, Chelsea.

'Olantigh, the Seat of Samuel Elias Sawbridge Esq.'
from 'Mansions of England & Wales - Kent, J. Mc. Nevin, del, W. Gauci, lith.', c1845.

Olantigh was owned by the Kempe family as early as the 13th century. When Sir Thomas Kempe died in 1607, leaving four married daughters, Olantigh was sold to Sir Timothy Thornhill. In 1711, Richard Thornhill, his grandson, became hopelessly involved in drinking and gambling, as was the fashion, and Olantigh had to be sold. It was purchased in 1720 by Jacob Sawbridge, one of the directors of the South Sea Company, in the year of “The South Sea Bubble”. In 1773, John Sawbridge, the then ruling squire, became Lord Mayor of London; he extended the mansion. The estate passed down through the Sawbridge family to John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge, on his father's death in 1851. He was born on 6.10.1800 at Wye, Kent, and died on 5.1.1887. He was John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge, Esq., of Olantigh Towers, Kent, and Holnest House, Dorset, D.L., J.P., M.P. for Wareham 1841-57, 1859-65, 1868-80. On 1.5.1827, he married Jane Frances Sawbridge Erle-Drax Grosvenor, of Charborough Park, Dorset, and Ellerton Abbey, Yorks., at St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London. In December 1903, Olantigh was occupied by Wanley Elias Sawbridge-Erle-Drax, vicar of Almer, Dorset, when fire gutted the Georgian mansion. It was eventually re-built on a smaller scale and with the portico some 70 feet from its original position. The family sold the Olantigh estate in 1935, leaving it substantially as it still was in 1953.

The entrance gateway to Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent.


The driveway to leading Olantigh Towers, with urns, shrubs, and planted tubs,
and views of Olantigh House, from different angles, when it was partly covered in ivy, pre-1903.


The driveway leading to the 1910 re-built Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent, after the 1903 fire.

Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent; the original 1762 house was burnt down in December 1903, but it was rebuilt.

Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent, prior to the 1903 fire.

The main entrance of the 1910 re-built Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent, after the 1903 fire.

Aerial view of the re-built Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent, after the 1903 fire.

The river Stour and the gardens at Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent.

The re-built Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent in 1910, after the 1903 fire.

The Harper Fountain at Victoria Park, Ashford, as is orginally appeared in 1916.

Major J.S.W. Sawbridge-Erle-Drax visited the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Hyde Park, London where he purchased this beautiful fountain together with its ornate base, and had it erected at Olantigh Towers, at a cost of over £3,000. In 1912 Wanley Ellis Sawbridge-Erle-Drax, his nephew and heir, sold the fountain to local businessman Mr. Harper, who donated it to Ashford Council, and paid for it to be erected in Victoria Park, Ashford, where the public could appreciate its beauty.

There is an interesting and informative history of Olantigh Towers at: lostheritage.org.uk, as well as lots of other 'lost' houses in the UK.

Holnest House, Dorset

Holnest House, Sherborne, Dorset about 1910 - situated in the Blackmore Vale region.

Holnest House was built by John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge-Erle-Drax in a similar style to Charborough House for his own use after the death of his Charborough-heiress wife, and subsequent inheritance by their daughter. Much has been written about him and how he stripped many of the valuable artefacts from Charborough House prior to their daughter inheriting it. Some of these artefacts were re-purchased by members of the Drax family from his male 'Sawbridge' heir, including some land within the present Charborough Park.

Culverhayes Manor House, Holnest, Sherborne, Dorset about 1910

Drax Hall, Barbados

Drax Windmill & Drax Hall, Barbados, West Indies

Drax Hall, Barbados and Drax Hall, Jamaica were founded in the 17th century by the Drax family. A descendant of this family, Henry Drax, later married into the Ernle-Erle family of Charborough Park, Dorset, and thus they became the Ernle-Erle-Drax family of Charborough Park. The Jamaica estate was sold, but the Barbados estate remained in the possession of their descendants. [see 'Home' page for further information]

There is a brilliant new book about the Drax family of Barbados: The Sugar Barons - family, Corruption, Empire and War by Matthew Parker, published by Hutchinson 2011, and now available via amazon.co.uk for £14.74 in hardback. This book includes family trees and illustrations.