All posts by David Poole

STOKE ROCHFORD HALL

Stoke Rochford Hall (House and Heritage)
Stoke Rochford Hall, Lincolnshire (House and Heritage)


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.
(Historic England)

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

Stoke Rochford Hall 1875 (Flickriver)
Stoke Rochford Hall in 1875 (Flickriver)

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 Hall 1901 (Country Life)
Stoke Rochford Hall in 1901 (Country Life)

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.

Christopher Hatton Turnor (Kiplin Hall)
Christopher Hatton Turner (Kiplin Hall)

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

Stoke Rochford Hall (Austin Newport Group)
Fire at Stoke Rochford Hall in 2005 (Austin Newport Group)
Stoke Rochford Hall (Grantham Target)
A fire starts in the roof at Stoke Rochford Hall (Grantham Target)

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

Stoke Rochford Hall,
Stoke Rochford, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG33 5EJ

ALDERCAR HALL

Aldercar Hall 1910
Postcard of Aldercar Hall in 1910 (Heanor and District Local History Society)


Built in 1668. Demolished c1962

This house, as altered in the 19th century, was of 4 bays and 3 storeys, with string courses between them, quoins and a central segmentally pedimented entrance sporting a cartouche of arms. Inside there was a fine timber staircase, with turned balusters of 17th century date, and the gate piers were contemporary sporting carved stone urns and a sundial bore the date 1688.
The Derbyshire Country House (Maxwell Craven & Michael Stanley)

Aldercar-Hall-Map-1900
Aldercar Hall from Ordnance Survey Map in 1900 (Heanor and District Local History Society)

These days there are no visible traces of Aldercar Hall. Like so many houses it was demolished in the early sixties considered surplus to requirement and too near the expanding industrialisation of Heanor and Langley Mill. Now it is all but forgotten but was once the home of a wealthy industrialist.

There had been a previous house on the site but the last one was built by Thomas Burton in in 1668. By 1712 it was owned by the Milnes family and a century later was the home of Rev. John Smith.

By 1881 Aldercar Hall was in the hands of Francis Beresford Wright (1838-1911), the son of Francis Wright of Osmaston Manor, described as an ‘iron and coal proprietor of the Butterley Company, J.P. for the County of Derby, M.A. Cambridge, farmer of 295 acres’.¹

The Butterley Company was founded as Benjamin Outram and Company in 1790 and became one of the largest producers of iron in the country. One of its most famous contracts was providing iron for the Barlow Train Shed at St Pancras Station.

Francis Bereford Wright
Francis Beresford Wright (My Heritage)

Despite improving the property Francis Beresford Wright lost interest in Aldercar Hall and made Wootton Court in Warwickshire the family home in 1882.

The following year an advertisement appeared in The Times announcing the pending sale of the Aldercar Hall estate.¹

“The Aldercar-Hall Estate, Derbyshire, on the Midland and Great Northern Railways, within a drive of the beautiful scenery of Matlock, 12 miles from the county town, a like distance from Nottingham, and three hours’ journey from London. A charming Residential Freehold Estate of about 300 acres, formerly one of the Parks of the Ancient Castle of the Peverils. The mansion, placed on a commanding eminence, approached from the high road through an avenue of chestnut trees, stands in the midst of a beautifully timbered demesne of fine undulating lands, the pleasure grounds on the south side being skirted by an ornamental lake with islands and a wilderness. It is entered from the avenue through a handsome old gateway, into a quadrangular court, and contains a spacious entrance hall with broad staircase, handsome drawing room with large bay window, dining room, library, billiard room opening into a pretty conservatory, eight principal bed rooms and two dressing rooms, bath room, school room, day and night nurseries, and seven secondary bed rooms, housemaid’s closet, two men’s rooms, &c. The domestic offices are excellent and fitted with every modern convenience; a dairy, with marble fountain; soft water cisterns, with force pump, and spring water, conveyed by gravitation from a spring on the hill, supply the hall and premises, and hot water and gas are laid on throughout. The stabling comprises six loose boxes, two stalls, two coach-houses, saddle and harness rooms, with chambers over. A terraced-garden court, laid out in the Italian style, with coloured gravels and fountain, with terraced rosery below, and on a lower terrace, enclosed by handsome box and yew hedges, is the tennis court, with beautiful walks down to the ornamental water and wilderness. There is an asphalte tennis court, also pretty rookeries, caverns and arbours. The lake, about two acres in extent, with islands connected by a rustic bridge, is a delightful object from the house. There is an aviary, three orchard houses, palm-house, vineries, &c. The Home Farm, with superior buildings, yards, &c., with 40 acres of grass land, adjoins the Hall; and Park Farm, of about 175 acres of grass and 60 of arable, in a high state of cultivation, with superior residence, a range of model farmbuildings, cottages, engine-house, &c., is most perfect and remunerative.”

The reserve price was never met and the auctioneer purchased Aldercar Hall on behalf of the Wright family for £10,000.

Aldercar Hall
Aldercar Hall (Heanor and District Local History Society)

It would appear that the house never left the family and by 1888 it was being leased or rented to Mr Frank Adams M.A. as a boys’ preparatory school. The school remained there until 1891 before relocating to Wellingore Hall, near Grantham. However, Aldercar Hall continued as a preparatory school, under the control of Mr E.H. Nicholls and Mr L.W. Compton, until around 1895.

By 1898 Aldercar Hall was once again a Wright family home.

Now it belonged to Arthur Fitzherbert Wright (1865-1952), son of Francis Beresford Wright, who remained there until 1927. He left Aldercar Hall and moved to the family seat at Wootton Court until his own death in 1952.

Arthur Fitzherbert Wright (My Heritage)
Arthur Fitzherbert Wright (My Heritage)

The house was reported to be unoccupied by 1930 and is understood to have remained so until the 1960s when demolition seemed the only viable option.

¹Heanor and District Local History Society