The Calverts – Kiplin in the 17th century

The history of the Hall began almost 400 years ago, but the history of Kiplin goes back much further. Chipeling appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the land of Count Alan. From the 13th century until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, the land belonged to Easby Abbey on the banks of the River Swale near Richmond. It passed in 1537 to Lord Scrope of Bolton, whose son sold it to Lord Wharton in 1559.

Leonard Calvert leased land at Kiplin in the late 16th century and his son, George, was born here in 1579. The Calvert family was Roman Catholic and Leonard Calvert was required to have his sons educated by a Protestant teacher at Bilton near York. At the age of fourteen George Calvert matriculated to Trinity College, Oxford, from where he received a B.A. degree in municipal law in 1597.

In 1603, George Calvert became private secretary to Sir Robert Cecil, who was Secretary of State to James I and the Earl of Salisbury from 1605. By 1610 Calvert was a clerk of the Privy Council and was sent on a number of delicate missions to Europe, leading to a knighthood in 1617. In 1619, he was appointed one of the two Principal Secretaries of State to James I, despite the opposition of James’s favourite, the Earl of Buckingham. In 1621, George Calvert was described by the French ambassador to London as: An honourable, sensible, well-minded man, courteous to strangers, full of respect towards ambassadors, zealously intent for the welfare of England; but by reason of all these good qualities, entirely without consideration or influence.

In 1619, George Calvert was granted 6000 acres of land in County Longford in Ireland, and in the same year he purchased 800 acres at Kiplin. In 1620, he embarked on his first colonial venture, sending settlers to a colony in Newfoundland which he named Avalon and in which he eventually invested nearly £25,000. In 1622, his first wife Anne died in childbirth, having borne him eleven children, and about the same time he began to plan the building of a new manor house at Kiplin.

Shortly before James I died in March 1625, George Calvert resigned his post at court and proclaimed himself a Catholic. As a reward for his services, James created him Baron of Baltimore in County Longford. In 1627, he set sail for Ferryland in Avalon with his new wife Joan and a large household, but found the climate inhospitable, the soil rocky, and the Puritan settlers opposed to his religion. After being rebuffed when he attempted to settle in Virginia, George Calvert then petitioned Charles I for lands in a more congenial climate.

After several years of negotiation over both the land and Calvert’s proposed charter, on 20 June 1632 Charles I put his seal to the patent for land to the north of Virginia, to be called Terra Mariae or Maryland in honour of Queen Henrietta Maria. Sadly, George Calvert had died in April that year and his son Cecil, 2nd Lord Baltimore, became the first Proprietor of Maryland. Cecil appointed his younger brother, Leonard, the first Governor.

The first 150 settlers left England in November 1633, sailing in two small ships the Ark (125 feet long) and the Dove (49 feet) with 50 sailors, all their food and fuel for a five month voyage, supplies and tools for their destination, and trade items to exchange with the native Indians. The Dove disappeared in a storm in the Bay of Biscay, but fortunately caught up with the Ark in Barbados, and the settlers reached St Clement’s Island in the Potomac River on 25 March 1634. Until 1771 when Frederick, 6th Lord Baltimore, died without a legitimate heir, the Lords Baltimore lived in the south of England or in Maryland.

In 1722, Charles Calvert, 5th Lord Baltimore, sold the manor of Kiplin to his mother’s second husband, Christopher Crowe. So far, little information has come to light of its history in the previous century. The building represented George Calvert’s increasingly elevated status by 1620 and his expanded resources. He was at court during the Jacobean building boom and must have known Sir Robert Cecil’s house at Hatfield in Hertfordshire, designed by Robert Lyminge and built between 1607 and 1611, and perhaps also the same architect’s work at Blickling Hall in Norfolk for Sir Henry Hobart. No architect is known for Kiplin and George Calvert probably designed the house in conjunction with his master builder, as was common at the time.

Kiplin Hall was a tall, compact, very symmetrical house, built of the currently fashionable red brick with decorative elements in Yorkshire stone. The bricks were made on the estate, with diamond-shaped diapering in blue-black bricks adding interest to the façade. As at Hatfield, Blickling and other houses of the period, Kiplin has four towers with lead-roofed ogee domes, but unusually – and very practically - they are in the centre of each façade, rather than at the four corners. The towers were originally castellated and there were staircases in the north and south towers.

Changes from the 18th century onwards make it impossible to be certain of the internal layout in the 17th century. Each floor of the Hall may have had two symmetrically-shaped rooms on either side of a long central room between the east and west towers (see plan on p.45). Service quarters, including kitchens and accommodation for staff, were probably in older buildings nearby, sufficient for short visits by the Calverts. They were occupied in southern England and Maryland, and sadly nothing remains now of their presence at Kiplin Hall except for the design of the building itself. However, many Marylanders still look on Kiplin as the birthplace of their state and close links across the Atlantic are maintained today.

Image Title - George Calvert, 1st Lord Baltimore. The original by Daniel Mytens of 1625 hangs in the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. A fine copy was commissioned for Kiplin Hall in 2001 by a direct descendant of George Calvert.

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