Ralph Bourchier 1531 - 1598
The Bourchier family ownership of Beningbrough lasted for well over 200 years and it began with Ralph Bourchier. Ralph was the illegitimate son of John Bourchier, one of the Knights who attended Henry VIII at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520. Ralph inherited the estate from an uncle in 1556. He later moved to Beningbrough and built an Elizabethan Hall on the land. He was High Sheriff in Yorkshire in 1580, knighted in 1584 and an MP for the county in 1589.
John Bourchier 1684 - 1736
John Bouchier inherited the Beningbrough Estate in 1700 at the age of just 16. Several years later on return from a Grand Tour of Europe, where he spent two years in Italy absorbing the Italianate baroque architectural style, John built the current Beningbrough Hall. It was most likely his marriage to wealthy heiress Mary Bellwood which provided funds for him to do so. The Hall was completed in 1716. John was High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1720.
William Thornton 1670 - 1721
The main cantilevered staircase in Beningbrough appears to hang in mid air as if by magic. The secret to the trick lies in the ingenious architectural craftsmanship of William Thornton. Thornton was Beningbrough's chief craftsman, responsible for fine wooden carving in the Hall. He was also the supervising architect. Thornton worked on several other grand Yorkshire houses, including Castle Howard and Wentworth Hall.
Margaret Earle née Bourchier 1740 - 1827
Margaret, the last of the Bourchier line, owned Beningbrough for over 65 years. She married Giles Earle in 1761, and eight years later they pulled down the Beningbrough shutters to go exploring France and Italy. Much to the amusement of others, Margaret acquired a French accent while away. She is commemorated by a Stained Glass window in the church at Newton-on-Ouse.
William Henry Dawnay 1772 - 1846
In 1827, having lost her two sons in the Napoleonic Wars, Margaret Earle left Beningbrough to Rev. William Henry Dawnay. William was a distant relative by marriage and had been a close friend of her elder son at Eton. He was 55 when he inherited Beningbrough and later went to live there with his wife Lydia, making many interior changes. The Dawnays were an old Yorkshire family, with a strong tradition of service in Parliament, the Church and the Army.
Guy Dawnay 1878 - 1916
Major-General Guy Payan Dawnay inherited Beningbrough in 1910 at the age of 32. He had fought in the Boer War, where he was a brilliant intelligence officer and strategist, but upon his inheritance he left the Army to take up a career in merchant banking. Guy was a Liberal with a commitment to the 'public services' and a businessman professing no feeling for money for its own sake. In 1916 he sold Beningbrough to pay off the duty on his father's estate, and to live nearer London where he worked.
The Duke of Cambridge 1850 - 1904
Prince George, Duke of Cambridge only had a walk-on role in Beningbrough's story, but is still remembered today because of the impressive tree he planted to the rear of the house. The then Duke was the 79-year old grandson of George III and visited Beningbrough in 1898. The tree he planted is in an odd position in the middle of the path, and the story goes that the Duke was suffering from hay fever so did not wish to walk on the grass. It is now the fourth largest English variegated oak in the country.
Lady Chesterfield 1878 - 1957
Lord and Lady Chesterfield purchased Beningbrough for just £15,000 in 1916. The couple furnished Beningbrough lavishly with pieces from their former residence, Holme Lacey, and completely redecorated. Lord Chesterfield died in 1933 but Lady Chesterfield remained at Beningbrough until her death in 1957. She was a force to be reckoned with, especially where the young airmen billeted at Beningbrough during the war were concerned. Her main interest was in horses and she set up a stud farm at in the 1920s.The most distinguished foal was Sun Castle who won the St Leger in 1941.