Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

History of Bolton Priory Published in 1910

Bolton Priory is a lovely residence on the National Register of Historic Places located in Pelham Manor.  There are many wonderful stories and unusual facts regarding the structure. 

In 1910, the New Rochelle Pioneer reprinted a brief history of Bolton Priory that originally appeared in the Pelham Sun.  Below is an early photograph of Bolton Priory, followed by the text of that article.

Famous Far and Wide for Its Interesting History.--Antique Furniture and Fixings of Great Value.

To see the exterior of the celebrated Priory in Pelham Manor is inspiring, to behold the interior produces a feeling akin to awe; the furniture and fixings are so overwhelmingly massive, the antique character of the whole ensemble so overpowering, that a visitor dreams himself back in time a couple of centuries.

The priory was built as a private residence by the Rev. Robert Bolton in 1838, for his wife and thirteen children.  It was modeled after their ancestral home in Lancashire, England.  The house is of stone with two towers, and is surrounded by woods.  A pond lies in one meadow, at one side of which is a well built of stone and named St. Mary's Well; above was a rustic wooden bridge leading to a hermit's cave.  In one of its two rooms was a stuffed figure reading at a table.  The stone door being ajar, many a delighted child gazed in mysterious fear at this silent old hermit -- his hour glass and books -- seldom venturing inside.  Beyond on the hill, overlooking the water, was a summer house with thatched roof, rock floor, a perfectly delightful picture to gaze upon the blue waters and Long Island beyond.

The house was surrounded by flower beds and arbors, the same as it is now, leading through various shaded walks to the vegetable gardens and stables beyond.

The interior of the house is a hall straight through from garden to front driveway.  The centre room being a hall called the armory.  There you find three suits of armor, life size, and a collection of ancient spears, swords and shields; also several old cabinets and curious chairs of old Tudor days, and a table too large to ever be removed from the room.  This table was presented by Washington Irving.  The mantlepiece was brought from Venice and is beautifully carved, over an unusually large fireplace, with a seat on each side of the logs.  A curious chair carved in oak attracts your attention.  It was found in Dorchester, near Oxford, England, and bears date of 1639.

In the library were paintings of the Bolton family, among others a portrait of Robert Bolton, merchant of Savannah, Georgia, whose great wealth gained for him the sobriquet of 'King.'  He died in 1802.  He is represented dressed in a dark blue coat, yellow vest and cocked hat.  There is also a portrait of his wife, in high cap and stiff cambric handkerchief and light brown silk bodice, painted by Sir Walter Robertson in 1797.

Amongs other portraits is one of the late Robert Bolton and his wife, Anne Jay, with their oldest children, Robert and Anne, painted by the celebrated William Etty, of the Royal Academy of England, and very interesting is an original portrait of John Bunyon, author of 'Pilgrim's Progress.'  The portrait was in the possession of Rev. George Whitefield, the great preacher, and given to Cornelius Winter, and by him again to Robert Bolton, merchant, of Savannah, Georgia, and to his son, who built the Priory.  This portrait is held now by his daughter who is desirous to sell it either for a private library, a college or a museum.

The old rocking stone near the church is an English and American sign of ancient worship; they were consulted in various ways be the Druids; they originated in the time of Moses:  'Behold this stone shall be a witness.'  Ancient history mentions their existence in various places.

On the ground in the woods Rev. Robert Bolton built Christ Church, with a family vault; windows done by two of his sons and tablets bearing the names and dates of death of his household.  At one end of the property he built a stone house, Gothic style, called the Roadside School.  As there were no public schools in those days, the people had free education there.  Later it was turned into a rectory and again later into a parish house for all meetings.

About ten years after the Priory was built by the Rev. Robert Bolton deeded [sic] it to his eldest daughter, Nanette Bolton, and she opened the well known Pelham Priory School and kept it going until 1882.

In 1884 Mrs. Stevens, who by that time had come into possession of the Priory, married Duc de Dion and took up her residence in France.

At the marriage of her daughter, Adele Livingston Stevens, in 1892, to Frederick H. Allen, the Duchess presented the Priory to her as a wedding present.  Mr. Allen, who is a well known lawyer and holds the position as Chairman of the Democratic County Committee of Westchester, still lives at the Priory, and it is he with his five children to be seen in the foreground on horseback.

When a reporter visited the Priory Mr. Allen pointed out the ruins of Ann Hutchinson's house, which can be seen on the grounds.  Miss Hutchinson died in 1643. 

Mr. Allen also showed the ivy growing up around the towers; this ivy was brought from Kenilworth Castle by Washington Irving and planted by him. -- Pelham Sun."

Source:  Pelham Manor's Old Priory, New Rochelle Pioneer, May 7, 1910, p. 3, col. 3.

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