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Frank Whelan – Local Historian

February 8, 2018. Our program featured local historian and Allentown Rotarian Frank Whelan. His name is familiar to Valley residents as he spent 30 years writing historical articles for the Morning Call. He took this opportunity to tell us a little about how our city came to be called “Easton”. William Penn’s son Thomas Penn married Lady Juliana Fermor, the daughter of Thomas Fermor, 1st Earl of Pomfret and Henrietta Louisa Jeffreys. Lord Pomfret resided in a large country house known as Easton Neston in the parish of Easton Neston near Towcester in Northamptonshire, England. Thomas Penn was so entranced by the land at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers that he proposed establishing a county named Northampton with a county seat known as Easton in honor of his father-in -law’s estate. The 1976 bicentennial celebration in Easton featured a visit from Baron Hesketh who was the current occupant of the estate.

Curiosity led Frank and fellow reporter Bob Wittman to visit Lord Hesketh at the actual estate home in 1983. Lord Hesketh proved to be a gracious host and personally guided them on a tour of the 32,000 square foot house situated on 4,000 acres. The house has 36 rooms featuring large windows, large lamps, large artwork, large gardens, and, well, large everything. The doorway is topped with the family crest that translates as “This Hour And Always.” The architect of the original structure appears to be Nicholas Hawksmoor with assistance from Christopher Wren (unless it was the other way around). They toured the grounds in the Baron’s green Land Rover, bouncing over his mother’s precious English wild flowers known to the Baron as “weeds”. No pictures were allowed when they passed through the testing area for the motorcycles that were being produced on the grounds. The Baron is an F1 enthusiast and wondered if Frank knew the Baron’s friend Mario Andretti. The final part of the tour was the view from a balcony overlooking a fountain and some far off trees. The Baron envisaged his grandchildren walking under those newly planted trees. Sadly, financial misfortunes forced the sale of the property and those trees will be enjoyed by others. The Russian-born fashion designer Leon Marx restored the estate’s interior and updated the mechanical systems for a cost of 25 million English pounds. Pictures of the estate can be found online in a 2012 article from Architectural Digest.


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