History

Recorded in the Domesday book, the estate is many centuries old but has had numerous owners, several having theirs lands confiscated as a result of having backed the losing side in political conflict.
The current owners, the Parker family, are relatively recent arrivals having acquired the estate in 1938.

The character of the estate as seen today owes much to the Chaplin family who owned Blankney for most of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Between 1820 and 1850 Charles Chaplin had built the Hall, rebuilt the church, laid out the park and rebuilt the village. However, of the Chaplins, Henry was the most colourful, achieving notoriety through romance and racing and featuring in one of the great Victorian society scandals known as “The Pocket Venus Episode”.

Henry Chaplin inherited at the age of 21 in 1862 and moved in extravagant circles having befriended the Prince of Wales whilst at Oxford University. He fell in love with a London socialite, Lady Florence Padget who was known as “The Pocket Venus” because of her diminutive stature and great beauty. In 1864 they became engaged and the wedding was the society event of the year with the Prince of Wales one of many to offer his congratulations.

However, during their engagement Florence had secretly fallen in love with Henry Rawdon-Hastings, 4th Marquis of Hastings. Just before her wedding, she had Chaplin take her to Marshall & Snelgrove’s store on Oxford Street to add to her wedding outfit. While Chaplin waited in the carriage outside, Florence walked straight through the shop and out the back, where Hastings waited for her in a carriage. Hastings and Florence eloped and were married that very day, Florence informed Chaplin by letter a day later.

In the 1867 Derby, Chaplin renewed his rivalry with Lord Hastings. Hastings wagered thousands of pounds against Chaplin’s horse, Hermit. Ten days before the race Hermit burst a blood vessel whilst training and Chaplin was advised not to enter him. However, the injury was not as serious as first thought, and though not fully fit, Hermit entered the race and won it during a dreadful storm. Lord Hastings lost over £150,000 (well over £12 million by today’s values) and died a broken man the following year, aged only 26. Florence wrote repeatedly to Chaplin begging his forgiveness but he steadfastly refused.

By 1892 farming rents were falling and Henry Chaplin was obliged to sell the estate to meet debts resulting from his extravagant lifestyle, political ambitions and heavy wagers. The new owner was Chaplin’s principle mortgagee, William Denison, 1st Earl of Londesborough. The Londsboroughs who also ran into bad luck suffering the deaths of four successive owners in title within forty years, the first Earl dying in 1900 and the fourth in 1937. The fourth Earl was also renowned for his generous hospitality and association with royalty. Crippling death duties again forced a sale to Billy Parker, a successful farmer from Norfolk making him the largest farmer in England, farming 32,000 acres in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.

The Hall was commandeered by the WRAF and in 1945 was badly damaged by fire, finally being demolished as a ruin in the 1960’s. The stable block, walled garden and beech avenues remain.