“In the Nature of Heir Loomes”: Inherited goods and the transmission of maiden identity by the Hussey heiresses of Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire.

Warriner-Wood, Leah (2021) “In the Nature of Heir Loomes”: Inherited goods and the transmission of maiden identity by the Hussey heiresses of Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire. In: Adventurous Wives in the Long Eighteenth Century, 14-15 May 2021, Online (Chawton House).

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper will outline how a revisionist approach to the study of interiors in the eighteenth-century country house has highlighted a close relationship between domestic material culture and the transmission of a markedly female dynastic identity. At Doddington Hall – a country house in Lincolnshire – the years 1722-1759 brought with them a manifestly matrilineal pattern of inheritance, and evidence for a mindful management of material legacies by two of the estate’s custodians: sisters Elizabeth and Sarah (nee Hussey). This practice appears to have been aimed at enabling the Hussey heiresses to preserve aspects of the familial identity into which they had been born, in spite of their contemporary legal status as wives and the attendant principle of coverture. Presenting the Hussey sisters of Doddington Hall as a case study, this paper will explore these elite women’s role in the transmission of dynastic identities to their male descendants. It will argue in particular for a reassessment of the influence of what we might call a woman’s ‘maiden identity’ on masculine development and the internalisation of familial values. I will analyse select wills and settlements enacted by the testatrices of Doddington Hall to show that, while the legal method that they applied – chiefly the doctrine of separate use – is by no means rare in such documents, it is made more meaningful when framed as an act of dissemination of a maiden identity. That is, as an opportunity for a married woman to pass on to an heir the familial identity of her birth, as an entity distinct from her identity as a wife. I will show, for example, that Elizabeth and Sarah continued to identify with and value a specifically Hussey pedigree after their respective marriages; that they perceived this as being bound up with domestic goods and property; and that they thus carefully engineered the bequest of those goods in order to proliferate their Hussey identity and, crucially, protect it from being subsumed by the dynasties of their respective husbands, and the husbands of their daughters. Using material evidence for how the bequests were used later in the century, I will then move to demonstrate that their actions resonated beyond their own lifetimes, influencing the formation of the elite masculine identity of their heir, John Hussey Delaval.

Keywords:History, 18th Century, women, Elite identity, Inheritance, Country houses, Domestic interiors
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V214 English History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V143 Modern History 1700-1799
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V210 British History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (Heritage)
ID Code:44943
Deposited On:25 Jun 2021 13:47

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