Weston was first lived in by an ancestor of the present owners in 1714, when Sir John Blencowe, a leading Northamptonshire man, took a seven year lease for his daughter, Susanna Jennens. She called it “dear Weston” and, seven years after moving there, her father bought it for her as a Valentine’s present – for £999. Thus began a chain of mainly female ownership that has lasted to the present day.
Among its early female owners were Susanna Jennen’s daughter, Mary, who had married a successful trader in the Levant, Arthur Barnardiston. Many of the house’s more exotic contents were acquired by him during his travels – including Chinese lacquer cabinets and 18th century paintings of a Turkish potentate and his entourage by the French artist Jean Baptiste van Moor. Mary enlarged the house in the 1770s, in the Queen Anne style.
The house continued to pass down the female line and was used mainly in the summer. In the early 19th century, it passed to the 21 year old Harriet Wrightson. Wrightson was married twice, first to the Honourable Frederick North Douglas, MP for Banbury and the grandson of Britain’s most denigrated prime minister, Lord North – responsible for the loss of our American colonies.
Frederick died four months into the marriage and she later married Colonel Hely – Hutchinson, a professional soldier who served with Wellington in the Peninsular War and fought with distinction at Waterloo. The Colonel was responsible for improvements to the house, including the conservatory. His diaries record his dancing engagements before Waterloo, and Weston also boasts a collection of love tokens bestowed on him by female admirers.
Wrightson died in 1864 and the Colonel 10 years later, still suffering from his old war wounds. They had five daughters, ensuring the house remained in female hands. The fourth of the Colonel’s daughters, Louisa Lucy, married into the Sitwell family in 1857. However, the house was not occupied by a Sitwell until 1923, when Sacheverell’s grandfather Sir George Sitwell inherited it from a great aunt, Lady Hamner, and who gave him the house as a wedding present.