Large house. Begun 1805 and completed after 1824 in the style of Wyatt. Ashlar, Westmorland slate roof. Two storeys, 13 x 7 first-floor windows to main block, with narrow rear wing with 4 first-floor windows. (Historic England)
Built: 1805 and finished after 1824
Architect: Unknown but completed by Robert Dennis Chantrell
Owner: Rudding Park Ltd
Hotel , spa and golf resort
Grade I listed
And so on to another house that has been resurrected as a hotel.
Rudding Park House may not be the architectural historian’s favourite. It is plain in comparison with its contemporaries and on a dull winter day might be described as somewhat bleak.
However, the house has a simplistic and attractive charm. Nowadays the house appears lost amidst a myriad of hotel extensions and car parks that form Rudding Park Hotel. Thankfully, the house still occupies pride of place on a plateau looking eastwards across the slopes that were once part of the medieval Knaresborough Forest. The hotel developments lay behind the house and it is still possible to see it in its original form.
The visit was on the back of a book I read recently. James Lees-Milne’s Fourteen Friends had a chapter on Everard Radcliffe (1910-1975) whose ‘bond was strengthened when we were a good deal thrown together in protracted negotiations over the future preservation of his ancestral estate, country house and the exquisite works of art it contained’. Prolonged these negotiations were as they went on from 1959 until 1972.
Rudding Park had originally been owned by the Earl of Rosslyn who sold it to his nephew, the Hon William Gordon, in 1805. He set about demolishing the old house, which stood a little towards the south-west, and prepared work on a new one. History doesn’t say who the original architect was, but the foundation walls were rectangular with five ellipses – two on the main east front, one on each side and a rear one on the west elevation. Work was painfully slow and when Gordon decided to sell Rudding, in 1824, only a few outline walls had been built.
The buyer was Sir Joseph Radcliffe, 2ndBaronet, who decided to sell the family home at Milnsbridge, near Huddersfield.
The Radcliffes were an ancient Lancashire family and Sir Joseph’s father, the 1stBaronet, had played a key part in suppressing the Luddites of the Colne Valley.
Milnsbridge House was a three-storey house built in 1756 and set in large grounds including an ornamental garden and two ponds. However, the industrial spread was advancing and Rudding Park provided a new beginning.
Radcliffe continued work on Rudding Park with the help of Robert Dennis Chantrell, a pupil of Sir John Soane and the architect behind Leeds Parish Church.
Once completed the house consisted of two storeys – no second floor or attic – and was made of ashlar with a Westmorland slate roof. The roof was surmounted by plain projected cornicing in place of the traditional parapet.
‘It is typical of that post-Regency phase of architectural simplicity, a reaction if you like from the ostentation of the Prince Regent’s Carlton House and Brighton Pavilion influences, in being mathematically uncompromising, almost puritanical’.
Once built there appears to have been very little work done to Rudding Park with the exception of a private chapel alongside the house. This was on a very grand scale and is the size of a parish church. It was built by A.E. Purdie in 1874 for Sir Percival Radcliffe, the 3rd Baronet, and with its Aberdeen granite and alabaster, remains untouched today.
‘Everard was immensely proud of the Victorian chapel and the treasures it contained’.
By the time the 4th Baronet, his grandfather, handed Rudding Park to Joseph Benedict Everard Henry Radcliffe (hereby known as our Everard Radcliffe), shortly after the Second World War, the house was run down and in desperate need of attention.
The trustees advised him to get rid of the estate but, with a sense of family loyalty, he set about restoring the house. The interiors were redecorated, refurnished and renovated with collected antiques, ornaments, portraits and furniture.
‘We have the history of England in a few rooms hung with tapestries and pictures’ wrote Sacheverell Sitwell.
The house was opened to the public but there appeared to be concerns on the part of Everard Radcliffe as to the future of the estate.
‘When money problems caught up with his extravagance he played a protracted game of cat and mouse with the National Trust over his inheritance,’ says Deborah Devonshire in her book All in One Basket.
Radcliffe had gifted the Marsden Moor Estate, near Huddersfield, to the National Trust in 1955, presumably in lieu of death duties for his grandfather, the 4th Baronet, who had died in 1949. The National Trust might have been forgiven for thinking that the house would be transferred to them.
‘Everything was safely tied up, and the only thing left to be done was Everard’s completion of his will and signature thereto’.
In 1971 Rudding Park was the location for a Granada TV series, Seasons of the Year, a series of six plays involving various occupants of ‘Seasons’, a country house, over a 150 year period.
How ironic it might have seemed when, in March 1972, The Evening Postnewspaper reported that Rudding Park was on the market thus ending the Radcliffe’s own 150 year occupancy.
The estate was sold for £1.2m to John Howard Mackaness (1915-2002).
Radcliffe kept small pieces of furniture and the contents fetched £200,000 at auction. He moved to Switzerland and died in 1975.
Mackaness was a landowner, businessman and master of foxhounds, with strong family roots at Boughton Hall in Northamptonshire.
He had big ambitions for Rudding Park and converted the kitchen gardens into Rudding Holiday Park in 1973.
In the early 1980s the redundant farms buildings to the north of the site – previously Home Farm then The Stables – were sold for a private housing development called Rudding Dower.
It would be 1987 before Rudding Park House was developed when it became a prestigious conference and banqueting centre. An 18-hole golf course was created in 1995. But arguably the most important advancement came after Mackaness’ death, with the building of a 50 bedroom hotel alongside the house in 1997 and a further 48 rooms added in 2010.
There is always sadness when a house moves out of private ownership. However, Everard Radcliffe will take some solace that the Mackaness family, who still own Rudding Park, have ensured the future survival of the house.
Note: The Radcliffe Baronetcy of Milnsbridge House in the County of York is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. The title still exists with Everard Radcliffe’s son, Sir Sebastian Everard Radcliffe, 7th Baronet, (Born 1972), who inherited the title at the age of three.
Rudding Park Hotel,
Follifoot, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1JH