Lady Elizabeth Hastings of Ledston Hall

Lady Betty was born on the 9th of April 1682, two years before the death of Charles 2nd. Her childhood had been spent during the troubled times of of the revolution which established William and Mary on the throne.
At the age of 23 she inherited Ledston Hall and soon began to demonstrate the qualities of piety, devotion, charity and common sense for which she became famous. She grew up with a deep sense of vocation knowledge and wit. Because of her wit humour and culture he company was was sought by the best intellects of her time. Because of her practical understanding and good judgement many people from all all of life would seek her advice. She was described by one writer as the pattern of all things praiseworthy.
Lady Betty remained single but not for lack of suitors, for her many proposals of marriage still remain today amongst the family papers. Her single aim in life seems to have been the service of God and the good of her fellows in the world. In her household prayers were said four times daily and on Sunday afternoon tenants would be invited to her house to hear a sermon, bible reading and to sing Psalms.
In her conduct towards others she used to say that she placed justice first charity next and generosity third. She was always ready by personal effort and by her gifts to care for the aged, orphaned widowed and down trodden. Thus she proved that she was by no means a religious recluse but that religion must be expressed in practical ways. In this she used her wide circle of friends, relatives and social contacts for the furtherance of the work to which she had set her mind.
In Leeds where Lady Betty had a town house Lady Betty gave £1000 towards the building of Holy Trinity church and an endowment of £24 per annum for the parish church. In her will she left the Wheldale estate for the foundation of scholarships at Queens College Oxford. This was originally for five poor scholars who were to receive the sum of £20 per annum for three years, or if they went on to study Theology for five years. In 1914 twenty scholars were receiving £100 per annum under a scheme revised by the Charity Commissioners.
Lady Betty tried as far as possible to cover the whole field of education, she founded the girls orphanage at Ledsham and the charity schools at Ledsham, Thorpe Arch, Collingham and Wike. Careful instructions are given in trust deeds for the management of these schools. These provide where possible for adult education as well as children. The educational trust also provided grants for further education at grammar schools. Schoolmasters and Vicars were to make diligent enquiry from time to time if there were any youth proper qualified in the free Grammar schools, so that when such a young man shall have attained the age of 23 he shall be capable of being appointed master to one of the charity schools founded by the aforesaid Lady Elizabeth Hastings. On the advice of a member of the society for the promotion of Christian knowledge, £9 a year was appointed for this training in Ledsham school. £1000 was also given to the SPCK for its educational work. At the time of her death it was estimated that her trusts paid £1,500 annually to religious and charitable trusts. By careful management of the Lady Elizabeth Hastings Estate Charity substantial grants were made to Day and Sunday Schools, Scholarships, upkeep of Parish Churches, Aid to retired clergy and to the sick elderly and needy.
The most impressive chapter in Lady Bettys life was that which closed it, her courage and fortitude in the face of illness and death are an object lesson to all. In 1738 when she was 56 there began a rapid development of a cancer of the breast, after consulting a doctor it was decided that surgery was required, this in the days before anaesthetic. She faced the prospect calmly and wrote “ I would not wish to be out of my present situation for all the world nor exchange it for any other at any price. We are also told she bore the suffering of the operation without showing any signs of the pain she must have endured. The operation proved successful and she was soon able to resume her duties. During the following months she worked hard to make the necessary provisions for her schools and charities, but soon the illness returned and she died in December 1739. Her dying words were “Bless me, O Lord! What is that I see oh! The greatness of the glory that is revealed in me, that is before me. Lady Betty was buried in Ledsham Church on the 2nd of January 1740. A marble monument stands over the place where her remains lie.