The Swanbourne Estate was founded by Betsey Wynne who bought the Estate in 1798 with her husband Admiral Thomas Fremantle. Betsey was an adventurous and lively lady who was much loved in the village and played an important role in the development of Swanbourne as an Estate.
Betsey’s story is a remarkable one. Richard Wynne, her charming and irresponsible rogue of a father was great mates with Casanova. In 1786 he sold his estate in Lincolnshire, and spent the rest of his life travelling with his five daughters including Betsey and an entourage of servants, horses and dogs. But when the French invaded Italy in 1796, Wynne fled south with his family to Leghorn to seek the protection of the British fleet.
The family boarded a frigate commanded by Thomas Fremantle, one of Nelson’s trusted ‘Band of Brothers’.
Betsey proved a good match for Fremantle and enjoyed spending time at sea with him. Within a few months, though, she almost lost both her husband and Lord Nelson. The occasion was an ill-fated attack against the Spanish at Santa Cruz, during which Nelson and Thomas were hit in their right arms by musket balls. Nelson’s arm was amputated but Fremantle’s limb, wrapped in a poultice, was saved.
“God Bless you and Fremantle” Nelson wrote to Betsey the following day, words which are thought to be the first penned by the now one-armed admiral with his left hand.
A move to Swanbourne in 1798 spawned the Swanbourne Estate. The Estate has grown in size and development in the past 200 years, which included a temporary move to Swanbourne House, after its construction by the family, but since let as a thriving preparatory school (Swanbourne House School.)