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The lands at Fryston were given in 1109 by the Archbishop of York to the monks. The lands included both Church and Manor. The Manor was run as a religious house by the Benedictine monks of Selby Abbey and was the residence of the Agent or master of works. The agent was probably in charge of local quarrying of the high quality magnesium limestone in the village used to build the Abbey. It was taken to Selby by rafts on a man made canal. It is likely that the buttressed south west corner of Monk Fryston Hall is a survival from monastic days, having a 13th century two light window which was probably part of the solar. Above is a circle with an ornamented cross head-a house was known here from about 1320 or even earlier. The west part of the south front of the Hall is late 16th/early 17th century, although the windows have been replaced. Following the great fire at Selby Abbey in 1906 the stone for the restoration came again from Monk Fryston, which was given by the Rev. Benjamin Hemsworth. The manor house was demolished about 1740 and the remainder was heavily restored. Bullets were discovered in the roof that had been fired by Cromwellian soldiers.
Monk Fryston Hall was the home of the Hemsworth family whose motto was “Manus haec inimica tyrannis” with the family tree having been traced back to the pre-conquest Danish Earl Thorgill Sprakaleg who came to England in 1014 as a general in the army of King Svend Tewkaleg. He lived at Hemsworth or Hamelsward. The family moved to Swillington in 1487 and became Lords of the manor. They moved to Garforth and in 1562 were Lords of the Manor. The family tree of the Hemsworth’s is displayed in a frame inside the Hall today and dates from 1877. In 1649 Gabriel Hemsworth was a Major in the Royalist army and was present at the siege of Pontefract.
It was Gabriel’s grandson who bought Monk Fryston in 1680 and it was his great-grandson David Hemsworth (1710-88) who lived at the Hall. David was the son of David and Martha Hemsworth of Potter Newton, Leeds. He married Dorothy Sarah Hanson of Hatfield Hall near Wakefield. David and Dorothy’s son was Benjamin (1747-1819) who married Ann Hanson of Wakefield. Their son was another David Hemsworth (1772-1840) who lived at Monk Fryston Lodge which was probably designed by John Carr. There was a tunnel from the Lodge to Monk Fryston Hall which was last used in 1933 when it collapsed. David married Sarah Wild and their son was Benjamin Hemsworth JP (1816-86). Brother David was born in 1811 and died in 1866. In 1874 the wall, gates and railings at Monk Fryston cemetery east of the village were erected by Benjamin in his brother David’s memory.
Benjamin married Elizabeth Bower (1811-79) and their children were Mary Louisa (1853-1913), John David (1851-95) and Benjamin (1848-1923) who become the squire of Monk Fryston Hall. He was churchwarden of Monk Fryston Church for 30 years. Benjamin married Mary Constance Duke of Lake House Wiltshire. She died in 1940 leaving Monk Fryston Hall to a nephew, who was killed in the War. Benjamin’s daughter was Elizabeth Sarah Bower who married the Rev. Rashleigh Edward Hungerford Duke (1854-1932). Ordained in 1880 and was Vicar of Monk Fryston (1887-98) living a few years at Lumby.
Over the open fireplace in the Hall lounge is the inscription “Far from Court-Far from Care” there is an ingle nook in the bar area, grandfather clock, hunting trophies and an impressive staircase leading to the bedrooms. In 1897 renowned architect Sir Ernest George improved and remodelled some areas of the hall, he was commissioned to provide addition of a ballroom, studio, and a billiard room. Mary Hemsworth is thought to have influenced the transformation of the grounds and gardens around the hall. The replica Lucerne Bridge is from a drawing by renowned architect Sir Ernest George the drawing is thought to have been influenced by his visit to Switzerland, the folly is thought to be his interpretation of the famous in Lucerne. Follies where popular ornamental constructions in 18th century gardens. Monk Fryston Halls historic bridge is grade 11 listed and just like the real bridge in Lucerne it bears paintings on the eves of the bridge which were painted by Mary Hemsworth who depicted the drawings and verse of the Rhym of the Ancient Mariner.
The 66-acre grounds surrounding Monk Fryston Hall feature an Italianate garden with lake and woodland walk across rustic bridges. When the Hall was home to Rev. Benjamin and Mary Hemsworth it became known as one of the important showplaces of the north. The grounds held a private zoo occasionally opened to the public, which was accessible from the now closed railway station. Benjamin was received into holy orders in 1875, although never held a living. He was a curate at Clapham (1875-76) and Halifax from 1876 to 1878. When the estate was opened he greeted the public in full clerical dress.
The zoo had on display Macaws, Cockatoos, Chinese Pheasants and Golden Eagles. There were Monkeys, Baboons, Fruit Bats, Lemurs, Opossums, Mongoose, Wallabies and Armadillos with Chameleons and Lizards. There was boating on the small lake and there is a replica of the covered Chapel Bridge at Lucerne Switzerland; original was severely affected by fire in August 1993 and has been rebuilt. The bridge paintings show scenes from “The Ancient Mariner” and are the work of Mary Hemsworth. She also converted a small quarry in the village into a Scottish mountain ravine complete with huge paintings. The zoo lasted until 1923 when high death duties prompted its closure. The Monk Fryston grounds contained a popular maze, covered swimming pool, cricket pitch, bowling green, concert hall, fives court and a decorated alpine hall (summer house) the orchard had a small lake with waterfall and there were extensive greenhouses.
The date 1897 is on a fall pipe showing later restorations at Monk Fryston Hall, which remained the manor house of the Hemsworth family until 1946. It was sold at auction to S.W. Tinsdale who converted the Hall to a hotel, which opened in 1947. In 1954 The Duke of Rutland bought the estate and kept it up until 2005 when it was bought privately by Mr M Hogarth, who operated a contracting firm from South Cave. Mr. Hogarth sold the Hall in March 2013. It was purchased by Ms. S. Mason & Mr G. Davies from Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Monk Fryston Hall is independently owned and run. The current owners are committed to retaining the authenticity of the hall and its beautiful grounds and woodland waterways.
The story of Monk Fryston Hall has been researched and written by local historian John Gilleghan MBE of Whitkirk Leeds. He has written five local history books two of which are Leeds – A-Z of Local History, Hatton – Story of an East Leeds Village. He has also written the histories of Monk Fryston, Micklefield, Ledston, Ledston Luck, Ledston Hall, Ledsham Steeton Hall, South Milford and Lumby.