Built around 1720. Demolished 1964.
Panton Hall, the seat of Edmund Turnor esq. MA., D.L., J.P. lord of the manor and principal landowner, is a handsome mansion of white brick, situated on a finely wooded eminence, and surrounded by a beautifully undulating and park-like country.
(Kelly’s Directory of Lincolnshire, 1896)
Panton Hall, near Wragby, was one of those magnificent country houses lost simply because the owners could not afford its upkeep.
The house was built around 1720 by the Gace family on an elevation with faraway views of the Lincolnshire Wolds.
Joseph Gace, Receiver of the Land Tax for Lindsey, had asked William Talman (1650-1719) to design the house. However, the death of Talman in 1719 ended his association with the house. Just how far he had got with his plans is uncertain but a copy of the design is believed to have existed until the 1950s and is presumed lost or simply mislaid.
It was left to Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736) to complete the task but just how much was down to Talman’s blueprint is ambiguous as building work was already underway during 1719. Hawksmoor was an able replacement. He studied under John Vanbrugh who had employed him at Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace. The three-storey house with a front canted bay was completed in 1727¹.
The completion of the house might just have been the start of Gace’s problems. It undoubtedly cost a lot of money and, through bad debt, would eventually lose control of his estates including Panton Hall. In 1742 the house passed to Gace’s son-in-law, Carr Brackenbury (1714-1763), who owned the house until his death².
His trustees transferred ownership of the house to Sir Jacob Wolff (1740-1809) in 1767. He was the son of Baron Godfrey Wolff of Moscow and had married Anne, the only daughter of the Right Hon. Edward Weston of Somersby Hall, the Secretary of State for Ireland, a year earlier. His intention may have been to make Panton Hall a family home but history suggests he spent little time there and did little for its upkeep. By the end of his six year stay the house was in a state of disrepair¹.
The house was rescued by one of Lincolnshire’s largest landowning families. The Turnor family had built up their estates over generations and had added the manor of Panton in 1687. Their family seat was Stoke Rochford Hall, near Grantham, where Edmund Turnor lived until 1769 but this is understood to have burned down by the time of his death³.
The new heir was his son, Edmund Turnor (1715-1805), who had married Mary, daughter of John Disney of Swinderby and Lincoln, in 1753. He lived at Kirmond le Mire and bought the manor of Stixwould in 1771³.
The house at Stoke Rochford was inhabitable and he required a house grand enough to match his wealth. In 1773 he bought Panton Hall for £6,150 and planned to make it his new home. Turnor remained at Kirmond le Mire while renovations took place³ but had to invest significant amounts of money to make it grand enough to live in. By 1775 he had appointed John Carr of York (1723-1807) to make alterations to the property including the addition of side wings. This reconstruction of the house would be his obsession that lasted until his death in 1805.
In John Carr’s reconstruction there were nine principal bedrooms and on the ground floor several spacious reception rooms. To save space most of the servants’ quarters were relocated to the basement³.
There has been much debate as to how much work John Carr carried out on the house. William Angus wrote in his ‘Select View of Seats’ in 1787 that the house was late 18th century with no trace of an earlier work⁴ Howard Colvin, the author of ‘A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects 1660-1840’ was in agreement and thought that the house had been completely rebuilt and only some early 18th century panelling re-used in one of the smaller rooms³.
John Harris in ‘No Voice from the Hall’ disagreed:-
“I came here when it was half-demolished, and it confirmed everything: the tall central block with its powerful canted bay rising three-storeys was the original Gace house, and the wings with their canted bays to the ends, answering the centre, were by Carr. The original house was obviously by Talman and at his death in November 1719 Gace clearly brought in Hawksmoor for the finishings.”⁵
Following Edmund Turnor’s death he was succeeded by his son, another Edmund Turnor (1755-1829). He was an MP for Midhurst, an antiquarian and author of ‘Collections for the History of the Town and Soke of Grantham Containing Authentic Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’. He married twice. His first wife was Elizabeth Broke and then Dorothea Tucker.
Turnor was a keen traveller in France, Switzerland and Italy and became a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1779 and a fellow of the Royal Society in 1786³. By 1817 Turnor was turning his attention towards Stoke Rochford and plans were afoot for a new house to be built there.
These plans would be implemented by his son Christopher Turnor (1809-1886) who inherited the estates on his father’s death in 1829. He preferred Stoke Rochford and built the new house between 1841 and 1845. This grand new house would become his home and Panton Hall was left to deteriorate.
However, in 1847 newspapers were reporting that Mrs Leeke, of the Sycamore, in Louth, had rented Panton Hall to use as a finishing school. The house was thoroughly repaired and Mrs Leeke and her pupils moved in during April.
“The establishment will be conducted as before, the assistance of Ladies (Professors) of high talent from London and Paris. The size and numerous apartments of Panton Hall enable Mrs Leeke further to offer Finishing Lessons in the various accomplishments to Ladies desirous of a temporary home as Drawing Room pupils.⁶”
The school lasted until October 1866 and the following year Panton Hall was back in the hands of the Turnor family. Christopher Turnor’s son, yet another Edmund Turnor (1838-1903), was using the house as his home while his father preferred Stoke Rochford.
Christopher Turnor died in 1886. Edmund, had married Lady Mary Katherine Gordon (1840-1930), the daughter of the Marquis of Huntly and sister of the Countess of Ancaster, in 1866 and now made Panton Hall his home. Edmund was M.P. for South Lincolnshire as well as being a J.P. and High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1894. He was a practical agriculturalist and participated on numerous farming bodies. He was a distinguished landowner and much liked by his tenants.
According to the Nottingham Evening Post, who reported his death in 1903, “he would make himself acquainted with the grievance of his smallest tenant, and would use his knowledge and experience to attain a satisfactory solution of the cause”. Turnor met an unfortunate end while shooting with Mr Montagu Waldo-Sibthorpe, at Hatton, near Wragby, where he suddenly collapsed and died in 1903.
The Turnor estates passed to a nephew, Christopher Hatton Turnor (1873-1940). He was educated at Oxford and studied agriculture at Cirencester as well as being a trained architect.
He took up residence at Stoke Rochford Hall in 1907 following his marriage to Sarah Marie Talbot Carpenter, the only daughter of Admiral the Hon W.C. Carpenter of Kiplin Hall in Yorkshire. His interests lie chiefly in agriculture and rural education but he still managed to write a number of books on land and food problems. Turnor applied his knowledge to the study of agriculture on scientific lines and managed to combine theory and practice most effectively on the estate.
Panton Hall had continued to be the home of Lady Mary Katherine Turnor following her husband’s death in 1903. However, times were changing for the aristocracy and the cost of upkeep for large estates was rising. The Turnor family also owed significant death duties and in 1911 the freehold estates of Stixwould and Wispington went up for auction.
In August 1917 the Panton estate, including Panton Hall with 563 acres as well as 20 farms and small holdings, woodlands, the Turnor Arms Hotel, residences and cottages, were offered for sale at an auction in the Schoolroom at Wragby
Panton Hall, including its pleasure grounds, stables, kitchen garden, entrance lodge, woodlands and Grove Farm, were sold for £15,000. The purchaser was Mr George Keeble, an ex-mayor of Peterborough, who had experience of buying country houses. In 1912 he had bought Finedon Hall in Northamptonshire but had quickly sold it on. The sale of the entire Panton estate raised over£136, 000⁷.
The purpose of George Keeble’s purchase remains a mystery. He clearly had no intentions of moving in and Lady Mary was still in residence in 1918. In March 1919 the Grantham Journal reported the sale of surplus household furniture by Lady Mary and by December it was announced that a party of monks from Oxford had taken over Panton Hall.
By this time the ownership of the house had passed to Thomas Cecil Langham, a landowner and farmer, well known in the Grantham district, with farms at Stroxton, Little Ponton and Welby. However, Langham was a tormented man who was always nervous and afraid he was going to be ill. In 1924, suffering from a bout of insomnia and internal pains, and agonising over the closure of his Nottingham business, he committed suicide. However, the monks were in residence at Panton Hall which had become a Franciscan Monastery and Roman Catholic School.
In 1931 newspapers reported the construction of new cloisters that extended around the college quadrangle. It was anticipated that the fourth side of the quadrangle would eventually contain a chapel. The monks existed side by side with the college occupying the stables and the friars occupying the Georgian mansion⁸. They remained until the 1930s before relocating to Kelham Hall near Newark.
In May 1935 Panton Hall was bought privately by Sir John Denton Marsden, 1st Baronet, of Louth (1873-1944)⁹. Most historians suggest Marsden bought Panton Hall from the Turnor family in 1917 and rented the house and stables as a monastery and college. However, newspaper reports from 1935 suggest this is incorrect.
Marsden had been associated with the fishing industry since 1901 and was the Managing Director of the Consolidated Fisheries Limited, a prominent trawling firm, and President of the Trawler Owners’ Federation. He had married Agnes Mary Ronald in 1911. As well as being a prominent businessman he eventually became High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1942-1943.
Marsden lived in part of the stables but newspaper reports from the time suggest the house was regularly used for social events. During World War Two the house was used by the army and by the time of John Denton Marsden’s death in 1944 the house was in poor condition. After the war it stood empty. The Panton Hall estate was offered for sale in 1946 but did not include the house.
The Marsdens remained at Panton Hall until the early 1950s before moving to Thorpe Hall in Louth.
A few years later John Harris visited Panton Hall and described the house’s last days:-
“Some years earlier the back forecourt had been netted off and the ground floor rooms used as chicken coops: some were black with droppings. There was a handsome Carr chimney-piece in the hall, and fine but plain chimney-pieces in most of the rooms. These were not elaborately decorated, but that was the attraction: all were wondrously reserved. The house had not been tampered with since Carr’s days. The bedrooms upstairs could only be described as windows on the Arcadia of the rural Wolds.”⁵
Panton Hall crumbled away and one wing eventually fell down. In 1964 the house was demolished and the bricks were to be used elsewhere. However, such was the perilous state of the building the bricks disintegrated when exposed to the weather³. The only reminders today are the Grade II listed stables, built by William Legg in 1777, and the former kitchen garden now privately owned.
According to the DiCamillo Companion plans were submitted in 2002 to rebuild the house but these came to nothing.
¹ Lincs Revival Heritage
² Inheriting the Lincoln Mantua – Research Well Lincolnshire
³ Lost Lincolnshire Country Houses – Volume 5 (Robert Pacey) 2002
⁴ A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects 1660-1840 (Howard Colvin) 1954
⁵ No Voice from the Hall (John Harris) 1998
⁶ Lincolnshire Chronicle/Stamford Mercury 1866
⁷ Lincolnshire Echo August 1917
⁸ Lincolnshire Echo June 1931
⁹ Lincolnshire Echo May 1935
The DiCamillo Companion: