Eastnor is a tiny village just a mile or so from Ledbury, and is dominated by Eastnor Castle, work on which was started in 1810, and completed in 1820.
When one of the wealthy landowning Cocks’ family moved to Eastnor at the end of the 16th century they.
married into the Worcestershire Somers’ family and the sum of their estates – including the inheritance left by the Lord Chancellor Somers in the early 18th century and the banking wealth of the Cocks Biddulph Bank (now incorporated into Barclays Bank) – gave the 1st Earl Somers the funds to start building Eastnor Castle. He married the daughter of the wealthy Worcestershire historian, Dr Treadway Nash. Robert Smirke was appointed as architect of the building, and people’s opinions on the Norman Revival style vary considerably, but actually I think that it is beautiful, and it stands in the most glorious grounds.
In the 1870s, the agricultural downturn caused a massive drop in the wealth of the Somers Cocks family, and the Earldom died out in 1883. The last Lord Somers inherited the Castle in around 1920, but it was a sadly depleted estate and in 1926 Lord Summers moved to Australia with his family when he was made Governor of Victoria. The castle was left empty until 1931 when the family returned and some improvements were made to the interior, but when war broke out it was left empty once again. Lord Summers widow did live there again for a few short years after the war but her finances were crippled by hefty death duties. In 1949 the Hon. Elizabeth Somers Cocks and Benjamin Hervey-Bathurst moved into the castle and set about restoration and repair work. Their son is the present owner.
During the building period of the castle, there would have been many local people employed as labourers or craftsmen, and once completed there would have been many household staff……..so if your ancestors came from the Eastnor area around this time then they may well have been employed by the castle.
The story of the old font deserves embellishment. It was found beneath the floor of the Nave when this was being rebuilt in 1851, and the much more modern base was carved early in the 14th century. It was clearly designed for total immersion of babies, and there is a hinged cover with a lock which meant that not only the holy water could be kept safe, but also other valuables. All fonts from the middle of the 13th century up until the Reformation were locked by order of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1236, as a safeguard against sorcery, and possibly also to prevent “hedge priests” from secretly baptising babies at a fee lower than that of the Parish Priest. The staples for locking the font were removed during the Reformation.