Percy Marlborough Stewart was born in 1871 and was the son of the Reverend James Stewart, rector of Little Stukeley in Huntingdonshire, and his wife Lucy.
A gifted scholar, he attended the King’s School at Ely where he won the Potticary Gold Medal for academic achievement. He subsequently studied Hebrew at Cambridge, becoming a tutor in the subject at Pocklington School.
Through their shared equestrian interests, Percy met Katharine Bridges née Priestman, the daughter of a Durham coal magnate, who lived in nearby Bielby.
In 1901 they married and leased Ivy Hall in Pocklington. It was subsequently purchased and re-named Burnby Hall.
Percy and Katharine completed a number of alterations to the estate, the most noticeable being the creation, around 1904, of the Upper and Lower lakes in the Gardens for fishing. Katharine later introduced Hardy Water Lilies to them, beginning what would ultimately become the National Collection that is enjoyed today.
From early on in their marriage they decided that they didn’t want to be “dull” and determined to travel the world. Between 1906 and 1926, Percy and Katharine completed eight world tours, covering North America and Canada, Africa, India and the Far East, Europe, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands with Percy using his trips to hunt, shoot and fish.
He had many adventures, including narrowly avoiding death when he was charged by an elephant!
He and Katharine brought back souvenirs and trophies which now form the Stewart Museum collection. These are an eclectic mix of statuary, hunting trophies and curiosities.
When war broke out in 1914, Percy was travelling in Russia. Having borrowed money from his brother Herbert to get him home, and having been detained on suspicion of being a spy at Odessa, which needed the help of the British Consul to resolve, he immediately volunteered his services on his arrival back in the United Kingdom.
But 43 year old Percy was too old for active service and spent the war in training and administrative roles, achieving the rank of Major, a title he retained for the remainder of his life.
Katharine died in April 1939 and Percy remained at Burnby Hall for the remainder of his life. He lived until the grand old age of 90, assisted in later life by his faithful housekeeper Miss Tibbott.
Both he and Katharine had no children and decided to leave the estate in trust to the people of Pocklington when they died.
On his death in 1962, these wishes were complied with and the Stewart Trust, established in 1964 was set up to run Burnby Hall Gardens and to administer the Stewart Museum collection.
Both remain as a lasting tribute to the generosity of Percy and Katharine Stewart.