Howdenshire History

The Shearburn and Clark families of Snaith

Introduction: The Shearburn family of Snaith

The Shearburn family had a great influence on the town of Snaith until the twentieth century. They were solicitors and landowners who built and occupied an impressive house, which is now known as Snaith Hall. This house, used today as a nursing home and obscured from the road by a petrol station, dates from around 1829. It has no connection with the Yarburgh family's Snaith Hall, which stood in a different part of the town and is now possibly partially under the town sewage works.


Old photo of Snaith Hall, home of Shearburn family

The Shearburn family home, now known as Snaith Hall

Two Shearburn daughters married two Clark brothers, who also became Snaith solicitors, and a vast amount of information about local people and the town of Snaith is available in the East Riding Archives, where the Clark papers are deposited.



Thomas Shearburn of Whitley

The first Thomas Shearburn we know of was a farmer at Whitley. He died in May 1810 and was buried at Kellington. His will is at the East Riding Archives [ref DDCL/3244]; the executors were Richard Gill, Francis Eadon and William Shearburn. Thoms Shearburn left land at Whitley and elsewhere.

The beneficiaries were his wife Elizabeth, his daughters Elizabeth Gelder and Mary Shearburn (who was blind), and his two sons Thomas and William Shearburn.



William Shearburn & Mary Mitton

Thomas's son William Shearburn married Mary Mitton, the daughter of Henry and Mary Mitton (Mary Mitton's maiden name was Eadon) of Kellington, on 21st August 1816 at Snaith. The Mitton family was well established in the area and there is a Mitton House in Snaith.


William Shearburn, solicitor, of Snaith, Yorkshire

William Shearburn of Snaith

William Shearburn was a solicitor in Snaith and a landowner. His house, now known as Snaith Hall, was built c.1829. It is a listed building and was well-known locally for its conservatory, which was addded to the house in the mid-19th century and was attributed to Joseph Paxton, the famous designer of the Crystal Palace. Sadly, the conservatory fell into decay and no longer exists, although the hall itself is still standing.


Old photo of Snaith Hall and conservatory, attributed to Joseph Paxton

A rear view of Snaith Hall showing the conservatory, attributed to Joseph Paxton



William and Mary had seven children, two of whom died in infancy:


1. William Shearburn b. 16 Jul 1817, d. 1819


2. Elizabeth Mitton Shearburn b. 8 Oct 1818, d. Mar 1892

Elizabeth Mitton Shearburn married Robert Faulder White on 14 January 1843 at Snaith. They lived at Paddington and had 11 children, including Frank Faulder White [b. 9 March 1861, d. 15 December 1939].


Old drawing of Elizabeth Mitton Shearburn and Thomas Shearburn of Snaith

Elizabeth Mitton Shearburn, with her younger brother Thomas, pictured at Snaith


Frank Faulder White married Eva Dalgairns Travers on 22 March 1888 at St Peter Port, Guernsey. He became an ear, nose and throat surgeon. He and Eva had six children including Thomas Otho Shearburn White, b. 9 Jul 1896, d. 26 Mar 1983


3. Mary Mitton Shearburn b. 4 Jan 1820

Mary Mitton Shearburn married Edward Elsdale Clark in December 1847 at St James's Church, Paddington. He was the eldest son of Captain Matthew Clark of Moulton near Spalding and was a solicitor. It was a double wedding, as Mary's sister Louisa married Edward's younger brother Frederick at the same ceremony. Edward Elsdale Clark died in 1891. He played a prominent part in the town's history, being involved with most of the legal dealings in Snaith. His son, Edward T Clark, also became a solicitor in the town.

Annie Augusta Clark, one of the daughters of Edward Elsdale Clark and Mary Mitton Shearburn, married Rev. Henry Harrison, the vicar of Pollington, in 1889.


4. Louisa Maria Shearburn b. 23 Feb 1821

Louisa Mary Shearburn married Edward’s brother, Frederick Clark, who was also a solicitor. They had a daughter Edith and four sons: Walter Frederick Clark (who became a doctor in Cheshunt), Gilbert Matthew Clark, Harry Shearburn Clark and Oscar William Clark (who became a doctor in Gloucester).

Frederick Clark died in 1855 aged only 33. In 1861 Louisa, described a fundholder, and the children were living at West Cowick with a governess, cook and two housemaids.


5. Caroline Augusta Shearburn b. 14 Feb 1823

Caroline Augusta Shearburn married Edward Marshall, the son of Edward Marshall and Mary Faulder, in 1856 at Kensington, London. Their children were Rev. Edward Shearburn Marshall (1858-1919) and Eadon Cecil Marshall (1859-1919).


6. Thomas Shearburn b. 1825, d. Sep 1873

Thomas Shearburn married Sarah Marshall and lived partly at Snaith and partly at her family home of Munstead Cottage, Godalming in Surrey (an eleven bedroom house with 75 acres). In the 1871 census his occupation was given simply as magistrate. He died at Snaith. Thomas and Sarah had five children:

Mary Mitton Shearburn b. Sep 1852
Egremont Eadon Shearburn b. Mar 1854, d. 1927
Augusta Frederica Shearburn b. Sep 1855, d. 16 Dec 1946
Roderic Bryant Shearburn b. Dec 1858, d. 27 Feb 1936
Harry Shearburn b. 5 Oct 1859, d. 24 May 1938

Harry Shearburn, b. 1859, was educated at Wellington College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1882 and went on to have a variety of careers. He farmed in Manitoba (1884-5) and in Yorkshire (1885-90). He then was in the oil business in Pennsylvania and London (1890-6), and in land agency from 1897. He inherited and lived at the house at Munstead, and died in 1938.

7. Henry Mitton Shearburn b. 25 Dec 1825, d. 1826


William Shearburn died on 24th August 1846, aged 55. In his will there was a codicil which appointed his son Thomas to succeed him in his professional partnership with Edward Elsdale Clark.

Mary Shearburn (nee Mitton), the widow of William, died on 26th March 1874.

Both William and Mary are commemorated by busts, which date from 1846. The busts are still in their original home at Snaith Hall today.


Bust of William Shearburn of Snaith Hall    Bust of Mary Shearburn, nee Mitton, of Snaith Hall

Busts of William and Mary Shearburn of Snaith Hall, dating from 1846



Snaith Hall and the Shearburn family

The Shearburn family's Snaith Hall was built around 1829 by William Shearburn (NB. Confusingly, it has no connection with the older building also known as 'Snaith Hall', which belonged to the Yarburgh family).

Although still owned by the Shearburn family, Snaith Hall seems to have been rented out after the death of Mrs Mary Shearburn, William's widow, in 1874.

In the 1870s the occupier of Snaith Hall was J Humble Rockett, who was a joint managing director of the Goole tillage company alongside John Wells, John Beachell, John Bennett, Captain Best, George Duckels, William Smith, John Tock, and C M Weddall.

In 1882 Snaith Hall was leased to Miss Justice Small, who later moved to Howden. However, by 1891 a Shearburn was again in residence. Roderic Shearburn was listed as the head of household in the 1891 census for Snaith Hall, and was described as a farmer.

He married Jane Auld of Greenock, the daughter of Dr Charles Auld, on 5 June 1895. He had presumably met her through her brother, Archibald Auld, who was a doctor and living in Snaith in 1891 with his sister Margaret Auld as housekeeper.


Old photo of Roderic Shearburn & wife Jane Auld at Snaith Hall

Roderick & Jane Shearburn (Jane is seated) with Jane's elder sister Isobella and Isobella's two grand-daughters c.1925 at Snaith Hall


Roderic Shearburn died at Snaith on 27 February 1936, at the age of 77. He was buried on 2 March 1936 at Busbridge, Godalming, Surrey.


Old photo of funeral procession of Roderic Shearburn of Snaith

Funeral procession of Roderic Shearburn of Snaith


There were no heirs. His widow, Jane, left Snaith Hall to her brother-in-law Harry Shearburn. However, Harry died on the 24 May 1938 and added a codicil to his will leaving Snaith Hall to his cousin (once removed), Thomas Otho Shearburn White.

Thomas Shearburn's grandson writes,

“By the time my grandfather inherited the house on Jane's death [in 1948] the economic situation meant that the house was more of a liability than an asset. While it had 600 acres, it didn't even have electricty. My father had spent quite a lot of the war years there living with Aunt Jane (as he was sent to school in York) and recalls sitting in splendid isolation in the dining room, being waited upon by the cook in a room lit entirely by candles, while Aunt Jane kept to herself in her rooms upstairs. My grandfather felt compelled to change his surname to Shearburn - a bit of mouthful with Shearburn as a middle name already! We always thought it was a condition of the Will, but having got a copy of Harry Shearburn's will there is no such requirement in it.”

The Shearburn/White family continued to live at the hall but found it difficult to maintain. One local resident remembers that there were two sons and a daughter, Elizabeth, who attended Goole Grammar school for a time.

The hall was later converted into a bed and breakfast, with all the rooms having birds' names. It was also later a restaurant called the White Elephant.

Eventually Snaith Hall was sold and the new owner built the present garage at the front. The hall itself is now a residential home.

The Shearburn family is commemorated by Shearburn Terrace in Snaith.

  Home   |   Family Research   |   Old Photos   |   Local History Books   |   My Local History Blog   |   Contact  
  Goole History   |   Howden History   |   Eastrington History   |   Snaith & Area   |   Local Villages   |   Yorkshire Emigrants  
Copyright © Amy Butler & Susan Butler 2014. All Rights Reserved.