Built 1858-1860 Currently unoccupied
Grade II* listed
Red brick with blue brick diaper work, limestone dressings and carved and moulded ornament, and knapped flint infill. Roofs are slate and lead and have brick and stone chimneystacks. The roof to the servant’s hall is clad in copper. (Historic England)
Minley Manor is a house built from the riches of the banking industry. It is typical of a large country house built from the excesses of Victorian wealth that would eventually become surplus to requirement between two World Wars.
This Grade II listed house was built between 1858 and 1860 by Henry Clutton (1819-1893) for Raikes Currie (1801-1881), a partner in the banking firm of Curries & Co and later with Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co. He was also a former MP for Northampton.
Currie commissioned Robert Toswill Veitch (1823-1885) to lay out the gardens. The house itself was built of red brick with stone dressings in an asymmetrical French Gothic style with very tall roofs. Mark Girouard would later describe the interiors as ‘more Jacobean and classical rather than Gothic.’
Minley Manor suffered a serious fire In January 1870 in which the south portion of the house and the clock tower were totally destroyed. A large portion of valuable furniture was lost having been moved to that part of the building where the fire originated, whilst the other portion was being renovated. The main part of the house managed to be saved through the endeavours of dragoons drafted in from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.
The house was also the birthplace of British diplomat Sir Reginald Hoare in 1882. Various Prime Ministers stayed at the house as did Queen Victoria.
Bertram Wodehouse Currie (1827-1896), Raike’s son, inherited the house in 1884 and made a number of important additions.
George Devey (1820-1886) (who had designed Coombe Warren for Bertram between 1868 and 1875) designed a chapel and orangery in 1886, the year of his death. Robert Veich and his landscaper Frederick William Meyer (1852-1906) also developed a winter garden, The Plain, extensions to the pleasure grounds and the Hawley Lake to the east.
Bertram had followed in his father’s footsteps and would also become a partner in Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co as well as being a member of the India Council. During the Barings Bank crisis in 1890 his expertise was called upon to work with Benjamin Buck Greene of the Bank of England to investigate the disastrous affairs of the bank..
After his death in 1896 the house passed to his son Laurence Currie (1867-1934) who made a number of modifications to the house and grounds. He employed Devey’s chief draughtsman Arthur Castings (1853-1913) to build new lodges, a water tower and a complex of walled gardens.
In 1933 Minley Manor was once again threatened by fire but this time it was due to a massive blaze that devastated more than five miles of wooded countryside between Blackwater and Hartley Wintney. More than a thousand soldiers joined fire brigades from Camberley, Frimley Green, Windlesham, Fleet, Bagshot and Hartley Witney. At one stage flames leapt 50 feet from blazing fir trees but they managed to save Minley Manor and also Elvetham Hall, the home of Sir Fitzroy Anstruther Gough-Calthorpe.
Laurence Currie died in 1934 but his son and successor Bertram Francis George Currie (1899-1959) had plans elsewhere. In 1936 he sold Minley Manor and its 2,500 acre estate to the War Office and moved to Dingley Hall in Northamptonshire.
Minley Manor became the Senior Wing of the Staff College at nearby Camberley. It was officially opened in January 1939 by Major General the Duke of Gloucester and was home to officers from the British Army, the Indian Army, Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force and a number of Dominion regiments.
After 1971 it was used as an Officers’ Mess for the Royal School of Military Engineering (the Royal Engineers) units at Gibraltar Barracks. The house was also used for military weddings but became empty in August 2013 when a new mess was built at the barracks.
Minley Manor was also used as the backdrop for the 1969 film Mosquito Squadron and Stardust, featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro.
As part of the Government requirement for estate rationalisation, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) sold Minley Manor in 2014 for a figure exceeding the £5 million guide price. The new owner is understood to be an international investor but plans for the house are yet to be revealed.
Note: In 1864 the banking firm of Glyn, Mills & Co acquired the business of Curries & Co and was renamed Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co. The company would eventually absorb further banks until the company was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1939. The brand survived as Glyn, Mills & Co until 1969 when RBS decided to bring together three businesses – Williams Deacon’s Bank, Glyn Mills & Co and the English and Welsh branches of the National Bank. The new company was renamed Williams & Glyn which lasted until 1985 before being rebranded as the Royal Bank of Scotland. The name was due to be revived in 2016 when RBS branches in England and Wales were reported to become Williams & Glyn once again. However, the planned re-branding failed to materialise.
Coombe Hill is the estate and hinterland to the demolished Coombe Warren, containing several mid 19th century properties by the architect George Devey, and other large interesting 20th century houses in a spacious landscaped setting, adjoining Coombe Hill Golf Course. Coombe Hill estate today consists of Coombe Hill Road and cul-de-sacs such as Greenwood Park and Devey Close; and neighborhoods along Warren Road, George Road and Golf Club Drive. (The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames)
Coombe Warren, demolished 1926, stood on land that was once owned by the Duke of Cambridge. When the Duke proceeded to sell up parcels of the land it was the rich and noble that proved to be eager buyers.
Between them they created a number of grand houses and country estates on a pleasant Surrey hillside. Today, with these estates further split, the land on Coombe Park private estate is still regarded as one of the most affluent parts of London.
Coombe Warren was built by architect George Devey in 1865 for Bertram Wodehouse Currie (1827-1896).
Bertram Currie was the second son of Raikes Currie of Minley Manor in Hampshire. He had entered his father’s banking business which in 1864 was amalgamated with the firm of Glyn, Mills and Company to become Glyn, Mills, Currie and Company.
Currie’s increase in wealth and status meant he was able to invest his money in a new home suitable for a man of his position. He turned to George Devey to build a mansion in which he and his wife Caroline, daughter of Sir William Lawrence Young 4th Baronet, could live in comfort.
His joy in the new house would be short-lived. In 1870 a series of disasters befell the Currie family.
In January a fire destroyed the south portion of his father’s house at Minley Manor. A few weeks later a similar fate occurred at Coombe Warren.
On a Saturday night a fire was discovered in a room near the kitchen. The Kingston Fire Brigade were called but were hampered by a limited supply of water. It was two hours after the fire started that water was put on the blaze. In the interim the fire brigade attempted to cut off communication between the main house and a new wing that had just been built.
The Surrey Comet reported that ‘the family being away, there was no one to authorise the breaking of the windows so as to get out the valuable paintings, choice old china, and articles of vertu with which the residence abounded’.
With a pay out from the Sun fire office Bertram Currie asked George Devey to build a replacement mansion.
The house of 1870 was rebuilt on a much bigger scale, and to a somewhat different design. The house was located in the triangle between modern-day Coombe Lane, Beverley Lane and Coombe Hill Road.
Mark Girouard said it was one of Devey’s “most elaborate and best-known houses, in a mixture of stone, brick, plaster and half-timbering, with numerous shaped brick gables of Betteshanger type.
“The typical disjointed plan of the 1870 house, with the service wings stretching out in a series of zig-zags from the main block, was anticipated in simpler form in the first design. The interior was decked with elaborate Jacobean decoration.”
The house had large formal gardens with orangery and a temple to William Ewart Gladstone. The Prime Minister was a frequent visitor to Coombe Warren and spent long spells as the guest of Bertram Currie. The house was once used for a cabinet meeting when Gladstone was ‘temporarily disposed’.
Before we close the door on Bertram we must record his banking achievement.
In 1885 Currie persuaded his bank to form a joint stock company with unlimited liability and became the first of the private banks to ever publish its balance sheet.
However, his greatest achievement was in 1890, on the occasion of the famous Barings crisis.
Currie was selected for his known friendship of his neighbour, Edward Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke. At the insistence of William Lidderdale, the Governor of the Bank of England, Currie worked with Benjamin Buck Greene to negotiate a solution to the banking crisis.
Between them they persuaded the directors of the bank to undertake the liquidation of their estate on the security of a guarantee to be obtained from the bankers of London.
Barings Bank headed this guarantee fund with £1,000,000 and Currie followed with £500,000 from his own bank. During one famous day, November 14th 1890, the private banks, including the Rothchilds, contributed an amount totalling £3,500,000 and, with the assistance of joint stock banks and county banks, the total eventually rose to £18,000,000. Currie had been instrumental in saving the British banking system.
In 1895 Currie developed cancer of the tongue which spread to the glands of his neck. He died a year later at his house at Richmond Terrace in Whitehall.
The house was sold by Bertram Currie’s grandson and redeveloped in 1926. The main house was demolished and only the garden walls and lodge survive today. The estate itself was sold off in smaller parcels of land and many houses in the area today can still boast structural remnants from Coombe Warren in their gardens.
The adjacent Coombe House (previously Coombe Cottage) of about 1863, with additions of 1870-1874, still survives. This was built for Currie’s neighbour Edward C. Baring (later Lord Revelstoke) of Baring’s Bank, with a tower and gables of different sizes. Coombe Cottage was far from ‘cottagey’ boasting 60 bedrooms.
Queen Victoria visited and on occasions stayed as the guest of Edward Baring and of the widowed Empress Eugenie whilst a resident during part of 1881 – 1882. Dame Nellie Melba, a famous operatic soprano but perhaps more famous for having the dish ‘Peach Melba’ named after her, lived at Coombe Cottage in 1906.
When there was a threat of a railway being built nearby it was sold to the rail company but the line was never built. The house later became Rediffusion Engineering and is now split into apartments.
Nearby Warren House on Warren Road was built in the 1860s by George Mansfield for the banker Hugh Hammersley.
George Grenfell Glyn (1824-1887), the second Baron Wolverton, and a partner in Glyn, Mills, Currie and Co, bought the house and land in 1884 and commissioned George Devey to make large additions to the house and gardens. Wolverton served in all three of Gladstone’s Liberal governments and regularly entertained him at Warren House.
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
Built 1760 Offices and apartments Grade II* listed
The buildings are constructed of limestone ashlar with slate roofs. Many ashlar moulded stacks. Plinth, first floor band and moulded cornice with coped parapet. Central block, 5-bay, 3-storey including basement, piano nobile and mezzanine floors. Slightly projecting central 3 bays crowned with a pediment. The gates, gate piers and wall to Wellingore Hall are the subject of a separate listing. They date from around 1770 and around 1830, and are constructed of limestone rubble and ashlar. (Historic England)
Wellingore Hall was built around 1760 by Christopher Nevile (1743-1829), a Colonel of the South Battalion of Lincolnshire Militia. He was descended from one of the most powerful barons amongst ancient chivalry of England. The construction of Wellingore Hall meant that the Nevile’s abandoned their ancestral home at Auborn House and made the short journey across Lincolnshire.
The house passed to his son Colonel Christopher Henry Nevile Noel (1774-1838). The family name of Noel was added on the demise of the Hon Thomas Noel of Walcot, near Stamford, and after his mother Lady Sophia Noel, sister of the last Earl of Gainsborough. He had been Lieutenant Colonel of the Rutland Fencibles, formed by Colonel, Sir Gerard Noel of Exton Park.
He made a number of lateral extensions to Wellingore Hall around 1800.
Christopher Henry Nevile Noel died childless and Wellingore Hall was inherited by his nephew, Henry Nevile (1808-1861), the son of the Rev. Henry William Nevile, the Rector of Cottesmore.
Henry spent most of his time at Walcot Hall and married Ellen, the daughter of the Rev. C Bryan of Woolastone in Gloucestershire, in 1847. He was educated at Harrow, was a Magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant for the counties of Northampton and Lincoln, and spent time in the Dragoon Guards. In 1861 he left Walcot with his wife intending to visit Italy but decided to spend time visiting Switzerland and France. They were on their way home when Henry became ill with rheumatism of the heart and died in Paris.
Wellingore Hall passed to his only son, Ralph Henry Christopher Nevile (1850-1911) who made the house the family seat. He married Mildred Frances, daughter of Mr Charles Robert Scott- Murray of Danesfield, Buckinghamshire, in 1871, with whom he had four sons and three daughters.
Ralph had been educated at Eton and King’s College and went on to become a J.P. for Kesteven and High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1883. He was a keen chemist, well known in the engineering world, and invented and perfected many early electrical devices.
In 1876 he employed John MacVicar Anderson (1835-1915), the Scottish architect, to remodel Wellingore Hall.
Around 1882 Ralph built a Roman Catholic Chapel, dedicated to St Augustine, attached to the hall. It cost £7,000 to build but two years later it was destroyed in a mysterious fire and rebuilt in 1885.
For reasons unknown Ralph spent some time away from Wellingore Hall between 1891 to around 1899. It is possible that Ralph took his family to Crown Lea in Malvern but the Nevile’s retained a presence at the house. For the duration the house became an agricultural college under the supervision of Mr Frank Gray M.A. who relocated his school from Aldercar Hall in Derbyshire.
Wellingore Agricultural College housed about 30 boys between the ages of 15 and 20. It prided itself for taking a more liberal view to education and allowed pupils to ride, keep dogs and even permitted older boys to smoke. One famous student was Philip Henry George Gosse (1879-1959), the son of Sir Edmund William Gosse, who went on to become a General Practitioner and writer on natural history.
By 1902 it appears the Nevile family had resumed control at Wellingore Hall. However, tragedy struck when his wife Mildred died in a car accident in 1908. Ralph remained at the house another three years until a long illness ended in his death in 1911.
Wellingore Hall was inherited by his eldest son, Geoffrey Henry Nevile (1874-1935). In contrast to his father he was far more interested in agriculture. He had studied at Fort Augustus in Malvern and the Royal Agricultural College and assumed responsibility for the family estates. He did government work of farming and irrigation in Canada, Sudan and Egypt. Geoffrey was a pioneer in early mechanised farming as well as being a keen golfer and cricketer.
His brothers, Hugh George and Bernard Philip, both lost their lives in World War One, and family responsibilities were shared with his remaining brother, Charles Joseph Nevile.
Charles married Miss Muriel O’Connor, the second daughter of Sir Nicholas O’Connor, one time British Ambassador to Constantinople, in 1919. The couple also resided at Wellingore Hall but Charles spent many years abroad in Sudan and in the civil service being assistant commissioner to Dongola province. He followed the family tradition of being an excellent cricketer and would captain the Lincolnshire cricket team. He died at Wellingore Hall of heart failure in 1929.
Geoffrey Henry Nevile died in 1935 but the Nevile family remained in the house.
However, the outbreak of World War Two meant Wellingore Hall was requisitioned. It became a mess for nearby RAF Wellingore and later in the war was used as a prisoner of war interrogation centre. (Wellingore Heath airfield had opened in 1917). Both Douglas Bader and Guy Gibson stayed at the house but wartime events hastened the departure of the Nevile’s from Wellingore. The house suffered miserably and there are reports that it still shows the scars of discarded cigarette stubs on the wooden flooring.¹
After the war the Nevile family finally turned their back on Wellingore Hall and returned to Auburn House.
In November 1946 Kesteven County Council announced they wanted to purchase the house and surrounding land as a farm institute. Reports suggest the Nevile family were against the sale but the council threatened compulsory purchase if necessary. A year later RAF Wellingore closed and the land given back for agricultural use.
The house suffered a period of neglect and the Nevile estate was finally sold in 1968. Thankfully it escaped the demise of many similar properties and avoided the bulldozers.
Today Wellingore Hall exists as a business centre comprising offices and apartments.
Now known as The Hayes
The story of Wootton Hall might be considered that of the ‘Ugly Duckling’ in reverse. Nowadays the Victorian mansion is called The Hayes and its appearance is a pitiful keepsake of former glories.
The modest house was built in the late 1850s by Edward James King presumably for his own use. However, his death in 1860 meant it went to auction without ever being lived in. Along with it came 55 acres of rich pasture and meadow land in an idyllic rural location on the outskirts of Leek Wootton.
Now called Green Hayes the purchaser was a Cheshire cotton broker called Carl Frederick Trepplin who lived there until 1882¹.
The house attracted the attention of Francis Beresford Wright (1838-1911) who had been the victim of his own success. He came from a wealthy family and was an iron and coal proprietor of the Butterley Company in Derbyshire.
His family home, Aldercar Hall at Codnor, was under threat from encroaching industrial growth caused by his own company. At the height of the industrial revolution the nearby hamlets of Heanor and Langley Mill were also experiencing rapid growth and the rural idyll of Leek Wootton looked a more enticing prospect.
Wright belonged to an extremely wealthy family and his father was Francis Wright of Osmaston Manor in Derby. Marriage to Adeline Frances Henrietta Fitzherbert, eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Fitzherbert of Somersall Herbert Hall, in 1862, further strengthened his financial security.
Francis Beresford Wright renamed the house Wootton Court and made it the family home for the next 70 years.
Much as he had done at Aldercar Hall he spent a fortune rebuilding and expanding the house as well as enlarging the lake and creating beautiful gardens and lawns.
Wright died of a heart attack in 1911 and his widow would live at Wootton Court until her death in 1924. The house was inherited by their son, Arthur Fitzherbert Wright (1865-1952), who moved his family from Aldercar Hall and made a new life in the Warwickshire countryside.
It is said at Arthur Fitzherbert Wright was an amiable character and was well liked in the community. During World War Two the house was used to house nurses working at Warwick Hospital and he regularly welcomed people seeking refuge from the bombs of Coventry.¹
He died in 1952 and Wootton Court was put up for auction. It was described as being substantially of brick and tile, occupying a delightful position in wooded grounds. The auction brief outlined a house with an entrance hall, four reception rooms, games room, fifteen bed and dressing rooms, four bathrooms and seven attic rooms.²
While Arthur’s widow moved to nearby Stone Edge (built by Francis Beresford Wright in 1909) the Wootton Court estate was sold to Aubrey Jones, a Coventry builder. He managed the estate as a mixed farm with traditional crops.¹
The house was sold in 1972 to the Warwickshire and England cricketer, M.J.K. Smith, who foresaw a new direction for the estate. He converted several farm buildings into a country club and eventually sold it to Gordon Barrow, a local hotelier, in 1987.¹
By 1990 the estate was known as the Wootton Court Country Club and was sold, along with Wootton Court Farm, with the former grounds identified as a golf course. The Warwickshire Golf and Country Club was founded in 1994 with plans to build a 150-bedroom hotel.
The plan was abandoned and Wootton Court was renamed The Hayes and converted into several luxury apartments.
At what point Wootton Court was altered is uncertain. While the house retains its initial plan the central block has been shamefully robbed of its castellation and now looks more akin to a 1970s attempt at art deco rather than Victorian grandeur. The whole exterior has been refaced, virtually pebble-dashed, to obliterate the original brickwork and tiles. Now the house has become a sorry ‘ghost’ of its former self.
The levelled platform of Easton Hall, demolished in the early 1950s, lies towards the north of the site, south-west of Easton estate village. Easton Hall, a medieval manor house and village, was purchased by Sir Henry Cholmeley in 1606. In 1805, Sir Montague Cholmeley took down the west wing and rebuilt the house (Turnor 1806). The medieval village was removed in 1805 (Glenn 1995). The Hall was rebuilt again by his son, Sir Montague Cholmeley in the 1840s and was described in 1872 (White) as a ‘large handsome mansion’. In 1902 the house was described as embodying the best features of Tudor style (CL). Attached to the west front of the house stood a large conservatory (ibid).
“A dream of Nirvana”… “A dream almost too good to be true.” These were the words of future President Franklin D Roosevelt about Easton Hall and its gardens. He was no stranger to the Lincolnshire estate, visiting at least three times, the last being for his honeymoon in 1905. When Roosevelt made this enthusiastic declaration he would have been dismayed that just 46 years later the illusion had gone forever.
Back in the 1990s I made the journey up and down the A1, near Grantham, on a daily basis. Mature trees and hedgerow lined both sides of the busy carriageway but little did I realise that just yards away were the remains of a fine country house. There was a clue, just past the turning for Burton Coggles, but I was in too much of a hurry for a second glance. Here, screened by unchecked undergrowth, was a decorative gateway. A pair of iron gates were suspended between two stone pillars – padlocked with a rusty chain – apparently leading nowhere.
I now realise that these gates once provided access to Easton Hall, a distinguished country house, once the ancestral home for 14 generations of the Cholmeley family. The house had long gone, a familiar story of decline after two traumatic world wars, the land relinquished to nature.
The Cholmeley family had purchased the Manor of Easton in 1592 after arriving from Cheshire. The medieval manor passed through generations until the beginning of the 19thcentury. From 1805 the original house had disappeared. Sir Montague Cholmeley, (1st Bt) demolished the West Wing, the oldest part of the house, along with the central block, and extensively altered the fabric of the house. A number of later Victorian additions by the 2ndBaronet created the most desirable home. Old Photographs show Easton Hall as a predominantly two-storey structure made of stone. Only a series of attic windows show the true height of the house.
Its front was dominated by a series of bay windows – running from floor to ceiling – with an arched porch to take horse-drawn carriages. In the Victorian manner the roof was a complex affair of stacks and chimneys. The most attractive part of the house was the south wing with 5 magnificent arched windows letting in large amounts of light to the ground floor. It comes across as a very irregular house but, like many of its contemporaries, is very aesthetic.
The architect for Easton Hall is hard to determine. However, the walled gardens, garden buildings and terraced gardens are attributed to Anthony Salvin in 1836. He was also responsible for the gatehouse and stables in 1841.
The most dramatic room inside the house was the large entrance hall, adorned with a gallery and hung with suits of armour. The rest of the house was no less handsome with valuable paintings and artwork spread throughout. The West Wing had fine views over the River Witham which flows towards Lincoln. The pleasure grounds rose from the banks of the river in a series of terraces, embellished by fountains, vases and garden statues.
The weakening fortunes of Easton Hall probably started at the beginning of the 20th century. When Sir Arthur Henry Cholmeley (3rd Bt) died, in 1904, the title and the 11,500 acre estate passed to his son, Montague Aubrey Rowley Cholmeley. He’d been a captain in the Grenadier Guards serving in the Sudan and the Boer War. After inheriting the baronetcy he retired from the army to focus on estate matters. He’d married Mabel Janetta Waldo-Sibthorp, from Canwick Hall, near Lincoln, in 1903 and she gave birth to their son, Hugh John Francis Sibthorp, in 1906. Maybe the proximity of Mabel Janetta’s family at Canwick looked a better proposition because the Cholmeleys spent most of their married life living at Norton Place, Glentham, north of Lincoln. This elegant 18th century house, by John Carr of York, had been in the Cholmeley family since the early 19th century. Easton Hall would be let out, around 1907, to Captain Marshall Roberts
Cholmeley re-joined his old regiment at the outbreak of the First World War but was killed in action, near La Bassée, in France, on Christmas Eve, 1914.
“The enemy were throwing hand grenades and one of these killed the Captain, who had come along the trench and warned us to keep down. A grenade exploded near him, and I think one of the pieces struck his head. He was killed instantly.” Private C Fuller
At his death Cholmeley left property to the value of £11,290. The baronetcy passed to Hugh John Francis Sibthorp Cholmeley (5th Bt), who was just eight-years old.
The loss of the 4th baronet was felt at both Norton Place and Easton Hall. While the Cholmeleys spent time in North Lincolnshire life at Easton Hall had been exciting. It had become the perfect place for visiting aristocrats who attended house, hunting and shooting parties. In 1902, the house had featured in the pages of Country Life magazine and had captured the imagination of people wanting to visit. Not least Franklin D Roosevelt who included Easton on his honeymoon tour of 1905.
Marshall Owen Roberts (1879-1931) rented the house from around 1907. He was the millionaire son of the New York transport entrepreneur, Marshall Owen Roberts. His father made his fortune after taking over the US government contract subsiding mail steamships. During the civil war he’d made huge profits by selling boats to the federal government. He would be instrumental in a Caribbean steamer service and would become involved in the development of transatlantic telegraphic cables. In time he was elected the President of the New York Chamber of Commerce. Our Marshall Owen Roberts was one-year-old when his father died. Seven years later he would sail to England with his wealthy mother.
Roberts would grow up to be a British subject and serve with the Scots Guards during the South Africa campaign. In 1903 he married Irene Helen Murray and spent their honeymoon travelling through France. Whilst driving back to Paris late at night from Fountainebleu, at considerable speed, their car came into contact with an unlit cart. The couple was thrown from the car and into a ditch but were fortunate to escape serious injury.
With plenty of money at their disposal the Marshalls were seen as part of the intelligent crowd. They lived in London’s fashionable Grosvenor Square and used Easton Hall as their country retreat. A keen sportsman, Marshall Roberts would become Master of the Belvoir Hunt. He was a keen and enthusiastic golf player and his many golfing parties at Easton included many well-known professional players including Harry Vardon, the 6-times British Open winner. Roberts would eventually build a 9-hole golf course attracting top golfers to take part in tournaments.
At the outbreak of the First World War, the British Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem formed the Joint War Committee. Under the emblem of the Red Cross they set out to secure locations to be used as temporary hospitals as soon as wounded men began to arrive from abroad. Marshall Roberts decided that Easton Hall would be a perfect location and part of the house was used for the duration as a convalescent hospital.
Roberts would re-join his old regiment but was severely wounded at the first Battle of Ypres. When recovered he transferred to the Welsh Guards and would soon become Captain Marshall Roberts. He served with the Welsh Guards in 1915 and 1918 twice being invalided.
After the war it was evident that Roberts’ marriage was falling apart. In 1921 his wife filed for divorce after identifying Marshall Roberts’ handwriting in a letter sent to the manager of the Grand Hotel in Brighton. A registration form from the hotel was also in his handwriting. It was alleged that Roberts had stayed with an unidentified woman over four nights. This woman was likely to have been Glen Alexandrine Charlotte Oldham whom he married in December of that year.
The golf course is worth a further mention. According to John Whittington, whose grandfather Ben Robert Cooper was the green keeper professional, the history books has Gleneagles as the first game against the Americans in 1921 that lead to the Ryder Cup in 1927. However, he says that there was a game against the Americans at Easton Hall prior to Gleneagles, organised presumably by Marshall Roberts. A team of 12 Americans travelling from Southampton to play in the Open at St Andrews stayed at Easton Hall for a few days to acclimatise and played an English pro and amateur team, also on their way to Scotland. Ben Robert Cooper’s sons, Whittington’s uncles, caddied for Cyril Tolley, British amateur golf champion, and professional Abe Mitchell playing against Walter Hagen and an unknown American.
Whittington also believes the course was a 12-hole course, not 9 as history books suggest, and that some of the layout can still be recognised on Google Earth. His grandfather remained the green keeper at Easton Hall until Marshall Roberts, on leaving, was made to return the course to nature. He then helped design and build a new course at Stoke Rochford Hall on the other side of the A1.
His marriage over, it was also time for Roberts to end his long association with Easton Hall. In 1922 he moved to Holme Pierrepont, near Nottingham, leaving Easton untenanted with only a caretaker. The house would become a target for thieves and in December a gang of ‘international crooks who secured little booty for their pains’ broke in. Instead, they crossed the Great North Road and stole gold and silver curios from Christopher Turnor’s country house, Stoke Rochford Hall.
Captain Marshall Roberts died in 1931 after taking ill in Venice while returning from a Mediterranean cruise.
The next tenant of Easton Hall was Andrew Alexander Watt (1853-1928). He was a hard-nosed businessman from Derry whose family had made their fortune as one of the largest whisky distillers. Their Abbey Street distillery covered eight acres and produced three world famous brands. Tyrconnell was named after the Watt family’s racehorse that ran in the Irish Classic “National Produce Stakes” and won against all odds at 100 to 1. This was the best-selling brand in the United States while, Favourite and Innishowen, enjoyed major exports across the word – to England, America, Canada, Australia, Nigeria and the West Indies.
In 1902 Andrew Watt merged his company with two other Belfast distilleries to form a new company called the United Distilleries Company. He would become chairman, increasing his personal wealth, and managed to negotiate a deal with the Distillers’ Company, of Scotland, to divide trade and limit production of grain whisky. This would prevent saturation of the market and ensure that prices remained at a competitive level.
The deal between the two companies was not an easy one and the United Distilleries Company found itself in financial trouble. This was worsened when the United States introduced Prohibition from 1920 depriving Watt of his biggest market. To confound matters the company suffered unrest amongst its workers resulting in a calamitous strike in 1921. They complained about Watt’s careless attitude towards working conditions and their meagre wages. Watt, dogged and merciless, told his workers that no money was available.
“Watt asked to be helped up on to one of his own whiskey barrels and from there he addressed the crowd with the menacing words – ‘Well men, I shall put it to you like this …what is it to be? Will you open the gates?’
The workers retorted angrily- ‘The gates stay shut!’
‘Very well!’ exclaimed Watt bluntly. ‘Shut they are, and shut they shall remain!’”
Andrew Watt turned out to be a man of his word. History clouds what happened next. It is more melodramatic to believe that Watt closed the distillery for good. However, it is more likely that the Distillers’ Company were breathing heavily down his neck. In 1922 the Scottish company took full control of United Distilleries and, by 1925, all the Irish factories had been dismantled. Whatever the circumstances, Andrew Watt was blamed for the appalling job losses and poverty that followed. With whisky sales in freefall, and the ominous Irish Question loitering, it’s likely that Watt was clever enough to get out while he could. (Fortunes were better for the Distillers’ Company – it grew into a major company, eventually taken over by Guinness in 1987, and is now interred within the prodigious Diageo organisation) Watt left Ireland behind, headed for the peace and quiet of the English countryside, and enjoyed the magnificence of Easton Hall for the next six years.
While it had housed tenants for over twenty years Easton hadn’t been forgotten by the Cholmeley family.
In 1927, to celebrate ‘the attainment of his majority and succession to the Easton estate’, all tenants and their families were entertained, at Easton, by a now grown-up Sir Hugh John Francis Sibthorp Cholmeley. With the permission of Andrew Watt close upon 500 people, including a delegation of 35 from Canwick Hall, advanced on Easton for a day of celebration.
The stone cross approaching the hall flew Union Jacks, the archway leading to the courtyard being most effectively decorated in red and blue flowers, with a horseshoe design in centre, the colours of the Grenadier Guards and bearing the inscriptions, ‘Long Life’ and ‘Prosperity’ and ‘Health and Happiness’. Other flags, including one with the family crest, were flown from the tower. Grantham Journal 27/8/1927
Andrew Watt looked on in admiration but had only one more year to live. He would leave over £900,000 in his will, a huge amount, of which £270,000 ended up in treasury coffers as death duties. In November, a newspaper advertisement appeared for the sale of ‘household linen, glass and china, as well as kitchen requisites’ from Watt’s time at Easton Hall.
It would be ten years before Sir Hugh Cholmeley moved into Easton Hall. He’d been educated at Eton College and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. In 1931 he married Cecilia Ellice, and, after 12 years in the Grenadier Guards, retired to a house he barely knew. However, his stay at Easton would be short-lived.
When war was declared in 1939 the future of Easton Hall was condemned. Sir Hugh returned to fight with the Grenadier Guards and the house was requisitioned and used as barracks for the Royal Artillery and of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. Like so many houses Easton Hall did not come out lightly.
According to the architectural historian, John Martin Robinson, ‘nearly every house which was used to accommodate the military has some horror story to retell of staircases chopped up for firewood, subsidiary wings gutted, the Van Dycks used as dartboards, jeeps driven through wrought iron gates or stone balustrades, carved or painted graffiti, smashed windows and much else besides.’
Easton Hall suffered all this and much more. The fabric of the house was damaged, contents ravaged and family records destroyed forever. Stories abound of live ammunition being fired inside the house and hand grenades thrown into the greenhouses.
The Cholmeleys never returned to Easton. After the war, the house, scarred and broken, waited empty for the next six years. Like all unoccupied properties it suffered to vandals and thieves who stole the lead from the roof. No longer watertight, no longer habitable, the house had become a burden for the family.
It would have been with heart-wrenching sorrow that Sir Hugh chose the only viable option. In 1951 he made the decision to demolish Easton Hall.
Stone by stone, tile by tile, the house was raised to the ground. Memories from generations of the Cholmeley family were obliterated in a just a few days. When the demolition people had gone only a few foundation walls and steps remained.
During the destruction fate played a remarkable hand. On the day that the gatehouse and stables were due to be flattened the bulldozer broke down. With time costing money the bulldozer was sent away and the buildings remained intact. A judgement that one day would prove advantageous. For a time the gardens were sustained to supply the markets of Grantham and Nottingham but these, too, were soon abandoned. Nettles, sycamores and brambles were left to take over the estate for the next 40 years.
Sir Hugh Cholmeley would live an exemplary life. He had been decorated with the award of Companion, Distinguished Service Order at Camino in Italy in 1945. Following the war he gained the rank of Honorary Colonel in the service of the 4th/6th Battalion, Royal Lincolnshire Regiment, and held the office of High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1961. He was invested as a Companion, Order of the Bath two years later. He would live with his wife in the Dower House at Easton Hall and died at St Thomas Home, London, in 1964, aged 57.
Had I chosen to stop the car and fight my way through the dense growth I would have been saddened to find crumbling steps, dilapidated walls, all covered with ivy and moss, trees growing from the ornamental bridge across the river and a woodland advancing where flower gardens once stood. The ghosts of the Cholmeleys would have been bemused. Their memories would have been whispers on the breeze teased by the hundreds of wild rabbits that had taken over.
Over the coming years Sir Montague John Cholmeley, (6th Bt), would turn away from Easton and strengthen the fortunes of the remaining estate. It now includes arable and livestock farming, acres of ancient woodland, a flourishing public house, a farm shop and nearly 80 rental properties.
In 2001, Lady Ursula Cholmeley, wife of Sir Hugh John Frederick Sebastian (7thBt) recognised the potential of the vanished house and its former gardens. By her own admission ‘there was a national outbreak of garden restorations, spearheaded by the famous Lost Gardens of Heligan’.
With scarcely a budget she led a group of people who miraculously retrieved the remnants of Easton Hall’s past pleasure grounds. In the years since walls and buildings have been repaired and today the public can visit Easton Walled Gardens, combining many of the original schemes with new areas of planting. The gatehouse and stables, fortuitously saved from the bulldozer, play a significant and inspiring role as entry to the site. The results are impressive and, with the remainders of Easton Hall still evident, this small part of Lincolnshire has been reborn.
Built: Between 1841 and 1845. Rebuilt between 2005 and 2008 Architect: William Burn Owner: Talash Hotels Group Hotel and conference centre Grade I listed
Pecked ashlar with smooth ashlar quoins and dressings, Welsh slate roofs having raised stone coped gables with obelisk finials, numerous tall octagonal grouped stacks, in a variety of styles, mostly facetted with moulded cornices, some with twisted cable mouldings and elaborate cornices. Irregular L-plan comprising central 2 storey plus attics principal range with, to left and at right angles, a more restrained service wing to full height with projecting single storey range.
A number of houses have stood on the site of Stoke Rochford Hall. The present house was built for Christopher Turnor (1809-1886) using his considerable family fortune. Turnor had succeeded his father in 1829 as a spirited 20-year-old owning 20,664 acres and a rental income of £27,000.
He sat as Conservative M.P. for South Lincolnshire between 1841 and 1847, and married Lady Caroline Finch-Hatton (the daughter of the 9th Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham) in 1857. Turnor requested plans from the Scottish architect William Burn in 1839 and finally agreed a contract in April 1841.
William Burn (1789-1870) had worked in Sir Robert Smirke’s London office before returning to Edinburgh to join his father Robert Burn. He was prominent at designing country houses including Blairquhan (Aberdeenshire), Falkland House (Fife) and Revesby Abbey (Lincolnshire). He had replaced Anthony Salvin as architect for nearby Harlaxton Manor where most of the interior was designed by him¹. It was this work that probably alerted Turnor to Burn’s talents and construction started and completed by 1845. The pleasure grounds were designed by William Andrews Nesfield (1794-1881).
The result was agreeable but the house never really excited architectural historians. Mark Girouard called it “a competent but not very interesting re-creation of a symmetrical Jacobean house, with a big service wing to one side.”²
Simon Jenkins described it as “a poor man’s Harlaxton, except that it is hardly poor.”³
Christopher Turnor used Stoke Rochford Hall as his main residence but his son, Edmund Turnor (1838-1903), preferred the family’s other country house, Panton Hall, at Wragby (demolished in 1964) choosing to let Stoke Rochford to tenants. For a time the house was rented by Harry Wyndham Jefferson, an accomplished sailor who won a gold medal at the 1900 Paris Olympic Games.
Edmund Turnor was also 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 married Lady Mary Katherine Gordon, the daughter of the Marquess of Huntly and sister of the Countess of Ancaster in 1866. He was a distinguished landowner and much liked by his tenants. According to the Nottingham Evening Post, who reported his death in 1903, that ‘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.
Stoke Rochford passed to his nephew and heir, Christopher Hatton Turnor (1873-1940) who genuinely cared for the house.
Christopher Turnor was a J.P. and became Mayor of Grantham in 1928 where is became known as the man who originated the cheapest housing scheme in England with houses rented at 3s 9d per week and attracting the attention of local authorities from all over the country.
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.
Turnor regularly placed Stoke Rochford Hall and its grounds at the disposal of the Kesteven education and other authorities to use as a summer school and for conferences. He had trained as an architect under Edwin Lutyens and Robert Weir Schultz and was responsible for constructing a green glass fireplace in the Newton Room and carving a scenic Mediterranean design in the balustrade of the main staircase. (Turnor had designed the Watts Gallery in Surrey and would build the Stoneham War Shrine in Hampshire between 1917-18)
His death at Torquay in 1940 coincided with the requisition of Stoke Rochford Hall by the War Department. For 18 months it became the headquarters of the Second Battalion of the Parachute Regiment and legend says the ill-fated Arnhem ‘drop’ of 1944 was conceived in the library.
The heir to the Stoke Rochford estate was Major Herbert Broke Turnor of Little Ponton Hall but he would never live at the house. Instead the house was leased to Kesteven County Council in 1948 and used as a teacher training college. The estate would eventually pass to Alistair McCorquodale and his wife Rosemary, daughter of Major Turnor, in 1954.
The teacher training college closed in 1978 and the lease was sold to the National Union of Teachers (NUT) as a National Education and Conference Centre.
In January 2005 Stoke Rochford Hall was almost lost forever. A fire started in the roof behind the clock tower but the cause was never established. Over a hundred firefighters pumped water from the lake for over four hours before having to retreat for safety. The wood panelled Grand Hall and library were lost as floors caved in and most of the interior of the south side of the building was destroyed. Fortunately, several pieces of priceless furniture, paintings and antiques were saved.⁴
The house was restored between 2005 and 2008 at a cost of £12 million and overseen by English Heritage. To the casual observer the result is impressive. No traces of the fire remain and the Grand Hall and Library have regained their grandeur.
Stoke Rochford Hall was used by the NUT as a hotel and conference centre for 38 years. Parts of the interior looked institutionalised, and it never quite pulled it off as a high class hotel, but the house is a fine example of Victorian architecture. Less can be said for the approach to the hall which is spoilt by unsightly modern additions.
In 2016 the 999-year lease was sold to Talash Hotels Ltd of Leamington Spa with plans to upgrade Stoke Rochford Hall into a high-end hotel.
The Stoke Rochford estate is owned by Neil McCorquodale, the son of Alistair and Rosemary who also own Little Ponton Hall
¹ The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture (James Stevens Curl & Susan Wilson)
² The Victorian Country House (Mark Girouard)
³ England’s Thousand Best Houses (Simon Jenkins)
⁴ Grantham Journal (January 2005) and Grantham Target (January 2015)
Additional information provided by Stoke Rochford Hall