From 1153 to today

The current owner, the 12th Viscount Downe’s family originally came from Aunay in Normandy, France eventually settling in North Yorkshire.

The Viscountancy is a second creation Irish Peerage which came in 1680 for John Dawnay. John Dawnay was knighted at the battle of Naseby which made him unpopular under the Commonwealth and may have influenced his decision to buy land some distance from London at Danby. He was rewarded by King Charles II with the Viscountcy of Downe (the second creation).

The family obtained the title “Baron of Danby” in 1899 when the 8th Viscount was created the 1st Baron. Cowick near Snaith became the principle family seat until 1909 when the much enlarged Wykeham Abbey became the family home.

Danby was purchased in 1656 from the Earl Danvers, which previously formed part of the Latimer (subsequently Neville) holdings. Sir William Neville was married to Catherine Parr (the last surviving wife of King Henry VIII).

The moors at Danby are a common, the current Viscount Downe being the Lord of Manor. The common rights are overseen by one of the few remaining Court Leets who hold their annual Court in October of each year at the Court Room, Danby Castle. Regular Jury meetings also take place in the Jury room, Danby Castle.



1153 – Cistercian Priory founded at Wykeham

14th Century – Danby Castle built

1534 to 1543 – Catherine Parr lives at Danby Castle prior to her marriage to Henry VIII

1656 – Sir John Dawnay purchases Danby Estate

1680 – Sir John Dawnay becomes 1st Viscount Downe (second creation)

1897 – Title Baron Dawnay of Danby created

1909 – Wykeham Abbey becomes Family seat

1914 to 1919 – Wykeham Abbey used as a war hospital

1976 – Danby Lodge (former shooting lodge) becomes NYMNPA Moors Centre

2002 – Richard Henry Dawnay becomes 12th Viscount Downe


8th Viscount, Hugh Richard

Played a cricket international against a touring Aboriginal team – before ashes were even dreamed of.

President of the MCC

Head of Queen Victoria’s bodyguards, and helped introduce the spiked helmet to Britain

Became 1st Baron of Danby in 1897 and subsequently sat in the House of Lords