Meet Henry Hornyold-Strickland, Sizergh

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Henry Hornyold-Strickland
Member of Sizergh's family
Sizergh, Cumbria

A Strickland family history
Sizergh has been a family home for nearly eight centuries. The Strickland family first arrived there in 1239, when the heiress Elizabeth Deincourt married Sir William de Stirkeland. The family played a leading role in the wars with Scotland and France and at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, Sir Thomas Strykeland carried the banner of St George.

Henry says: 'It was a great honour for my ancestor Thomas Strykeland to carry the banner of St George, he would have been severely handicapped with only having one free arm so he must have been considered very strong and able.

'Later, in the 1500s, came a huge expansion of Sizergh, transforming the medieval house into a fashionable Elizabethan one. Our family were prominent Catholics in support of King James II and we were on the wrong side in the Civil War. We went into exile with King James II in 1688 when he was booted out of the country by William of Orange. Sizergh was empty for 15 years but survived as it was in the hands of a local agent.'

Returning to Sizergh
The Stricklands returned to Sizergh in the early 18th century as impoverished Jacobites but managed to keep Sizergh going until the late 1800s, when Walter Charles Strickland hit hard times and started selling the contents including the Elizabethan inlaid chamber.

Henry continues: 'My great grandfather, Lord Strickland, bought back Sizergh from his cousin in 1896 and tried to get back all the items that had been sold. He never quite succeeded and we’re still missing a few portraits, some of which we have not been able to trace to this day.'

In 1940, the estate was transferred to Lord Strickland’s daughter, Mary, and her husband, Henry Hornyold. Along with their son, Lt-Cdr Thomas Hornyold-Strickland, they gave the house to the National Trust in 1950, with most of the contents, the garden and the estate of 600 hectares. Mrs Thomas Hornyold-Strickland (featured in the ITV series, Inside the National Trust), still lives at Sizergh today.

Henry says: 'They wanted to prevent any future despoiling of interiors and ensure future generations couldn’t flog off the contents again. The National Trust has helped us return lost items, like the inlaid chamber, back to Sizergh.

'Even though my mother now lives on her own at Sizergh, I’m one of six children so at times Sizergh is more like a hotel than a National Trust estate with endless family visits. It remains very much a family home.'

We asked Henry a few questions…

What’s your day job?
'I’m a management consultant in London, so my professional life crossed with Sizergh as I’ve been heavily involved in the running of the estate for many years. I even ran a session with Remko (Sizergh’s General Manager) on how we can work together to boost our visitor experience. I have a very good working relationship with the property team, deciding Sizergh’s future together, as it should be.'

How often do you return to Sizergh?
'I’m here very regularly, which is important as Sizergh is an interesting place but it’s nothing without a family. The Trust understands this, which is why it is still very much presented as a family home.'

What does it mean to be able to return to your family home?
'It’s really important to me. To know what you’re going to be doing in 30 years is nice, even if it’s also restricting in some ways. Personally for me it’s a great thing and I feel strongly attached to Sizergh. It’s a real part of me and I don’t know what things would be like without it. My children like to visit Sizergh and I want to play a part of handing it on to the next generation of Stricklands – it’s my absolute duty.'

What is your earliest memory of Sizergh?
'Games! A lot revolved around fighting and battles, but not when the visitors were there! We used to play with the children who lived on the estate.'

What is your favourite place at Sizergh?
'It has to be the Power House. I was an engineer originally and I am fascinated by machines. My great grandfather (Lord Strickland) was an amateur engineer and he brought electricity to Sizergh. The powerhouse isn’t open to visitors so I like to go there when I visit and start all the machines up. I like all the nooks and crannies of the house too, as a child I spent a lot of time exploring and looking for a priest hole, which I feel sure Sizergh should have somewhere – we haven’t found it yet though!'

Why did you agree to take part in the ITV show, Inside the National Trust?
'Sizergh is a family home to this day, so to have a film about Sizergh without the family would be pointless. I wanted to show the strong working relationship between my family and the National Trust and to put Sizergh on the map and encourage people to come and visit.'

What was the filming like?
“I’ve never done anything like it before. It was great fun, showing them the Power House and the car boot sale for the British Red Cross, family documents and so on. I’ve realised being on camera that I don’t look as young as I used to – in my mind’s eye I am still about 20 – well we all like to think that, don’t we.'

Follow the story of the Stricklands in their family home by tuning in to ITV on Sundays at 12.25pm.