Saturday, 23 October 2010



Ruswarp Hall

The name Bussel (Bushell) has been recorded in the Whitby Strand Records since AD1200. They were a prosperous family with strong connections to the sea. During the reign of James I their success as merchants enabled the building of Ruswarp Hall by Nicholas Bushell, who already owned Bagdale Hall which he'd bought from the Conyer family in 1595.
Nicholas Bushell married Dorothy, the daughter of Sir Henry Cholmley of Rooksby. On May 17th, 1609 a son named Browne Bushell was born. The question over his exact birthplace still remains, although it seems more likely he first saw the light of day in Bagdale, Whitby rather than Ruswarp Hall.
In 1633 Captain Browne Bushell married the daughter of Cromwell's Chief of Staff, Thomas Fairfax, who owned alum works at Dunsley. The couple made Bagdale their marital home.

Bagdale Old Hall
The English Civil War regularly saw men change allegience from the Parliamentarians to the Royalists (and indeed vice versa) at the drop of a hat, often depending on who had the upper hand at the time. Browne Bushell however was in a class of his own.
He was serving in the garrison under Hugh Cholmley in 1643, concerned with holding Scarborough Castle for Parliament. However Cholmley suddenly decided to hand the castle over to the Queen in March of that year, thus turning his back on Cromwell. Before doing so, he sent Bushell away on an errand to Hull, but he was captured and imprisoned by his cousin John Hotham, the Govenor of the city. He was held for two days, and only released after promising to recapture Scarborough Castle again for the Roundheads.
Bushell arrived back at the castle to find Cholmley had gone to York where the Queen was staying for a time. The soldiers at Scarborough were very dissatisfied and angry with the manner of Cholmley's feeble surrender, so Bushell and his brother Henry had little trouble in retaking the castle for Parliament in a totally bloodless coup.
Browne Bushell in Scarborough Art Gallery
It wasn't long before Browne Bushell fancied a change and started negotiations with the Royalists. He handed the castle back to them in due course. On April 19th, 1645 Sir Thomas Fairfax, his own father-in-law had him taken to London to be court-martialed.
Somehow Browne Bushell managed to convince his accusers of his wholehearted support for the Parliamentarian cause, because he was given the command of a fine ship under Admiral Sir William Batten. He couldn't stick with it though, and in 1648 he and several other ships captains delivered their vessels to the Prince of Wales.
...............Two men duly apprehended the turncoat, getting a reward of £20 for their troubles, and he was thrown in prison. On March 29th, 1651, with Cromwell having displaced Charles I, Bushell was condemned and executed having spent the final three years of his treacherous life in prison.
............. In 1916 two dismembered paintings were found in the box room at Bagdale Old Hall. They were duly sent to London for restoration and returned to the hall in something akin to their former glory. They were portraits made directly onto wooden panels, probably by some unknown itinerant italian artist. One was of Browne Bushell aged 24, the other depicted Dorothy, his bride aged 19. They were dated 1633. Each sitter is wearing a betrothal ring on a chain round their necks.........................
Some would say the turncoat Bushell has never left the hall. His ghost has been seen on more than one occasion among the upper rooms. Some say he is fated to return every year on the anniversary of his execution. Maybe the footfalls people hear outside their rooms, as if someone is passing in the dead of night, are those of the wretched Browne Bushell. It seems even after his spirit is meant to have left this mortal realm, he still can't decide which side to be on.

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