Georgian Society for East Yorkshire

A Georgian Courtship - Love Letters from William Burton of Hotham Hall to Dorothy Anderson of Kilnwick Percy

Monument to William Burton

Monument to William Burton

The monument to William Burton at the west end of St Mary the Virgin, Cottingham.

Fifty years ago I came across a bundle of letters, in the Anderson family papers in Lincolnshire Archives Office, written by William Burton, son of the builder of Hotham Hall to Dorothy Anderson, second daughter of Sir Edmund Anderson Bt, of Kilnwick Percy Hall. The Burton’s were newcomers to landed society, but the Andersons had been long established in Lincolnshire and the East Riding and were well connected. Sir Edmund Anderson and his family were part of Lord Burlington’s circle when he was at Londesborough, and Dorothy Anderson, to whom these letters were written was a protégé of Dorothy, Countess of Burlington, and may have been her goddaughter.

At the time these letters were written William Burton was 27 years old, and Dorothy was younger, nearer 20, her date of birth unknown. Dorothy’s mother had died two years earlier and her father married as his second Francis Batty, Dorothy and her sisters’ governess, in 1754. It was the 2nd Lady Anderson who had defended the cellar at Kilnwick Percy at the time of the Militia Riots (see Unrest in the Georgian Countryside). William Burton, was educated at Beverley Grammar School and St John’s College, Cambridge. As the letters indicate Sir Edmund Anderson was not keen about William’s courtship of Dorothy, but the reasons are not revealed.

(1) Hotham 14 Sept 1750

Miss Anderson,

Sure never did Time more certainly wear his Leaden Wings than since I saw that happy place which enjoys the most charming most valuable of Women. She who makes all Nature smile, your very Terrace rejoices when you are present & mourns at your absence. I was not so fortunate as I hoped to have been in finding Mr Harland att Home, he not being return’d from London, but the widow Harland, who I saw att York questioned me how matters stood, so I told her my errand and she was so kind as to offer to go over immediately to Mrs Crofts & mention the affair to her. She writes us word [that] Mrs Croft [sister of Sir Edmund Anderson] said that neither you nor Sr Edmund had consulted her about it, that she had heard a good deal talk’d of, but was resolv’d never to be in the least concern’d in Match-making. I assur’d Mrs Harland if it was nam’d to her she would say Nothing against it. I think I have now done all in my Power to convince D[ea]r Miss Anderson of my love & esteem& don’t fear that she whose compassion teaches her to greive with the afflictd & moirn with the Widow, will only not refuse Pity to one who if she commands it is ready to die att her feet, where I shall soon beg leave to throw myself to hear my Doom. If it be happy I shall then have Nothing to beg of Heaven but that we may both feel the Happiness of mutual & undivided love that after the Transports of a lively & pure Passion in our Younger years, we may exercise in a more advanc’d Age all that Charm of that Union which diminishes the Pains of Life & augments its pleasures by sharing it. And that att last one & the same Day may unite the Ashes of us both to exempt us from the Misfortune of bewailing the loss of those we love in the sincere Prayer & hope of D[ea[r Miss Anderson’s ever faithfull & most obed[ie]nt servt W. Burton

(2) [Hotham undated]

Dear Miss Anderson,

Altho I am deny’d by Sr Edmund the pleasure of seeing you at Kilwick you may be very certain that you are constantly attend’d by my Prayers & earnest wishes for your Happiness. May every guardian Angel watch my fair ones Eyelids when in slumbers & protect her when awake. I flatter myself Miss Anderson with the Hope that, tho’ Sr Edmund has taken this sudden Turn, that your Affections are not estrang’d from your most faithfull & most sincere Admirer then let us not doubt but to see that happy Day which shall make us one in the Eye both of God & Man. I hope you will not Deny the favour of a Line to him who if you should prove cruel must be the most wretch’d & forlorn as well as your most eternal Admirer W. Burton

(3) [Hotham undated]

D[ea]r Miss Anderson

What I have heard from Mr Langdale has given me great satisfaction as I an certain the farther Sr Edmund carries his enquiry the more he will be convinc’d that he has been misinform’d whether thro’ Friendship or by Design. I don’t pretend to say but should have been glad to ave known the Author as it would have given me more opportunity of vindicating myself from his Aspersions than I could possibly do in the Letter which I wrote to Sr Edmund last Sunday. As I have great Reason to believe you don’t give Credit to what that Person suggests you may be very certain that thought endear you much more in the Esteem of him who was before too much enamour’d of your many amiable inabilities ever to be happy without the Possession of Which my Father & Mother are so sensible of that tho I have not a Fortune to offer to D[ear]r Miss Anderson which may make them instantly regardless of hers yet such a one as I hope will enable us to live happy in the Possession of each other with the Addition of what Sr Edmund pleases to give. And as during my fathers Life we shall have an Habitation to chuse whatever Place is most agreeable to you whether in a Town or the Country will be the same to me. If you prefer the latter as I suppose Mrs Gees House att Bishop Burton will be at Liberty soon if it has your Approbation I shall think it a very eligible one as you may depend upon every thing being thought that can conduce to your Happiness by D[ear] Miss Andersons most faithfull & Obedient humble servt & Admirer W. Burton

(4) [Hotham, undated]

My Dearest dearest Charmer

My mother was extremly well pleas’d when she heard that things had gone well being only concern’d as she knew how violent some people att Beverley had been lest they should do something grossly rude out of spite that their former Plot had not succeeded. I hope to hear that you got safe to Kilwick free from Cold or any other Accident in your Journey My father has been a good deal out of Order I find since I left him but is pretty well again now. We all join in Compliments to Sr Edmund, Mr & Mrs Anderson & Miss Molly. Tho’ you are not in the sight yet I assure you are never out of the mind of your eternally faithfull lover W. Burton.

(5) Hotham 21 December 1750

My Dear Charmer I have acquainted Mr & Mrs Langdale [of Houghton] of your kind intentions of visiting them when it would be convenient they desire that favour on Wednesday next & have given us an Invitation to meet you. I believe my Father & Mother will beg to have Hotham honour’d with your Company on Thursday & if it will be agreeable to you we will have a Dance …..I desire my compliments to Sr Edmund, Mr & Mrs Anderson & Miss Molly & believe me Dearest Creature your most Affectionate & constant lover W. Burton

(6) [Hotham, undated]

My Dear Creature

Charming in all your Actions Words & Thoughts who is there that by such a Pattern must not learn too please. As too great a Noise since my fathers Misfortune is apt to affect him your engaging manner of declaring what I propos’s makes me hope that you will be assured nothing shall be ever wanting to make Hotham agreeable which is in the Power of my D[ear] Charmers ever faithfully Affectionate W.Burton


All continued to go well and Dorothy Anderson and William Burton were married at Kilnwick Percy Church on 11 March 1751. It is not known where William and Dorothy lived immediately after their marriage but, following the death of William’s father on 7 November 1752, they would be living at Hotham Hall. Sadly it was a short marriage for William died 3 September 1764, aged 41. They had no children. Dorothy was living at York when she made her will in 1778. She died in 1784 and was buried at Cottingham where there are monuments, at the west end of the church, to her husband, father, and other members of the Burton family. The Burtons rose from yeoman farmers at Cottingham in the mid-17th century to landed gentry at Hotham by the 1720s, largely through substantial legacies - that is another story.

David Neave May 2020

Hotham Hall, East Yorkshire

Hotham Hall

Built around 1720 for William Burton from Cottingham. The house remained in the hands of the Burton family until 1865 when it passed by marriage to the Clitherow (later Stracey-Clitherow) family. The oldest part of the hall, built of local limestone, is the attractive five-bay main range of two storeys and attics with a hipped Westmorland slate roof. To ... (read more...)

Kilnwick Percy Hall, near Pocklington, East Yorkshire

Kilnwick Percy Hall in 2019

Like a lot of country houses, the earliest occupation of the site stretches back into the mists of time. In 1574 Thomas Wood began a grand Elizabethan House here, but it was unfinished at the time of his death ten years later. The houses was only finished in the 1720s when the estate passed to Sir Edmund Anderson. Anderson's ... (read more...)

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