The FitzRoy Family
The title of Duke of Grafton was created in 1675 by King Charles II for his illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, with his long term mistress Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland. The actual title of Grafton refers to the Honour of Grafton in Northamptonshire.
Henry FitzRoy was married to Isabella Arlington in 1672, daughter of Henry Bennet, Lord Arlington, who was the heiress of Euston Estate, and a large estate in London, currently known as Fitzrovia. It has remained the seat of the Dukes of Grafton since this time.
The current Duke of Grafton, His Grace, Henry FitzRoy, inherited the title from his grandfather in 2011 and is styled the 12th Duke of Grafton. His son Alfred FitzRoy, Earl of Euston, was born in December 2012.
The FitzRoy family has included some notable figures, including:
- Henry, First Duke of Grafton was Vice Admiral of England and killed at the siege of Cork.
- The 1st Duchess of Grafton was betrothed at age five and married at twelve. She was heiress to large estates in London including Euston after which the railway station is named.
- The 3rd Duke was the youngest British Prime Minister after William Pitt and served from 1767 to 1770. He was dismissed by George III for championing greater independence for the American colonies.
- Admiral Robert FitzRoy commanded The Beagle with Charles Darwin on his scientific expeditions.
- The 11th Duchess of Grafton has been a Lady of the Bedchamber since 1953 and Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth II since 1967.-
- The current Countess of Euston was appointed Lord Lieutenant for Suffolk in 2015 and is the first woman to hold this office in the County.
Euston village is first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1087. The 15th Century manor house was subsequently purchased in 1666 by Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, who was Secretary of State to the newly-restored King Charles II.
Arlington remodelled the manor house, creating a large grand house in the French style. The picturesque courtyard, now the main entrance to the Hall, contains Lord Arlington’s stable block and a service wing linking it with the Hall.
The 2nd Duke remodelled the Hall in 1750, using designs by Matthew Brettingham, who designed a number of grand houses, including Holkham Hall in Norfolk.
In 1902 a devastating fire destroyed the South and West wings of the Hall. Fortunately, the art collection and many of the treasures of the FitzRoy family were saved. Since 2012, the 12th Duke of Grafton has undertaken an extensive restoration of the Hall and grounds.
The jewel in the crown of Euston Estate are the Pleasure Grounds, which were laid out by King Charles II’s courtier and celebrated landscape designer, John Evelyn. He visited Euston in 1671 as part of the King’s entourage, and was subsequently commissioned by Arlington to design the landscape around the newly built Hall.
His designs for Euston included a grand promenade through the Pleasure Grounds, and a lake known as the Basin on the South side of the Hall. These remain the basis of the landscape enjoyed today, and which were extended over the eighteenth century by Capability Brown and William Kent.
Euston’s extensive waterways were designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, arguably one of England's greatest landscapers. Brown worked at Euston Hall between 1767 and the 1780’s where he created a series of weirs and waterways through Evelyn’s Pleasure Grounds.
In 2013, these were dredged and restored to their former glory, using Brown’s original waterway plans. Two of his original landscaping plans for Euston are displayed within the Hall.
The watermill was built by Sir Samuel Morland in the 1670s for Lord Arlington and supplied by a man-made lake, via a canal. Its purpose was to pump water to the fountains and the Hall, as well as being used for grinding corn. It was redesigned in 1731 by William Kent, who styled it after a church.
An iron waterwheel was added in 1859 in the bricked up section next to the main door and supplied by the well-known engineering firm of Charles Burrell of Thetford. The 11th Duke of Grafton completely restored the building with the assistance of English Heritage during 2000 and 2001.
The Park , The Temple & The Church
The Park was designed by the noted landscaper and polymath William Kent in the mid-18th Century and is one of only seven surviving Kentian landscapes in Britain.
The Temple was the last work undertaken by Kent before his death. Built in 1746, the Temple is an eye-catching octagonal folly which was originally used as a banqueting house. This was a favourite spot of the 3rd and 4th Dukes, who owned the hugely successful Grafton stud, and would enjoy watching their racehorses being exercised in the Park.
The Church of St. Genevieve is a charming, Christopher Wren-styled parish church, which was built in the 17th Century, on the site of an earlier medieval church. The 1st Duchess of Grafton laid the foundation stone in 1676 and this is still to be seen to the right of the tower.
The Church is the final resting place of the Dukes of Grafton and is still in regular use.