Category Archives: DEMOLISHED HOUSES

FOREST FARM

Forest Farm - Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - 11 Jun 1910 - BNA
Forest Farm at Winkfield. This image is from The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in June 1910. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

From The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in June 1910. This was Forest Farm in Windsor Forest, Winkfield, in Berkshire, belonging to Henry Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle (1864-1928). He had abandoned Clumber House in Nottinghamshire for the comforts of Forest Farm in 1908, although it appears to have been under his ownership from 1906.

Soon after moving in it suffered a fire that damaged the upper parts of the building. Presumably it had been restored at the time of this photograph. Following his death in 1928, the Dowager Duchess of Newcastle remained at Forest Farm until her own death in 1955, and the house appears to have been demolished in 1956. Consigned to history and virtually forgotten.

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Henry Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle. He had poor health and played only a small part in public life. As a staunch Anglo-Catholic he spoke on ecclesiastical issues in the House of Lords. One of his achievements was the restoration of the fortunes of his family estate. In 1879 a serious fire destroyed much of Clumber House in Nottinghamshire, he had it magnificently rebuilt to designs by the younger Charles Barry. His Thames Valley estate was at Forest Farm in Winkfield which he eventually moved to.
Forest Farm - Country Houses of the UK and Ireland
Forest Farm was more convenient for the Duke of Newcastle. It was close to London and Eton and suitably positioned for Ascot Races. Sadly, it was demolished, presumably surplus to requirement.

HAYES PLACE

An American shrine on English soil. Following in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin, the great negotiator, and the sad plight of an English country house.

Hayes Place - The Graphic - 2 March 1918 - BNA
Hayes Place was the home of the distinguished statesman William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, who was Prime Minister in 1766-1768. His son, William Pitt the Younger (the youngest ever Prime Minister) was born here in 1759. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In March 1918, The Graphic highlighted Hayes Place in Kent, the ornate home of the Earl of Chatham, and the historical visit of the great American, Benjamin Franklin.

From 1757 to 1774, Franklin lived mainly in London where he was the colonial representative for Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. His attempts to reconcile the British government with the colonies proved fruitless. On his return to America, the war of independence had already broken out and he threw himself into the struggle. In 1776, he helped to draft, and was then a signatory to, the Declaration of Independence.

In 1758, when relations between the mother land and her American colonies had become strained to breaking point, William Pitt the elder, later the 1st Earl of Chatham, went out of his way to make the acquaintance of the famous American. They met within the walls of Hayes Place, where Franklin and the Earl held many discussions as to how the differences between Great Britain and America might be healed.

Hayes Place - Lost Country Houses of Kent
Pitt acquired Hayes in 1757 then rebuilt the house and added land to the estate. General Wolfe dined here in 1759 on the night before he departed to his fate at Quebec. During Pitt’s time as Prime Minister, Thomas Walpole held the house and encased it in white brick during further enlargement. Walpole resold it to Pitt in 1768, who died here ten years later in 1778. Image: Lost Country Houses of Kent.

Site of a house since the 15th century, in 1754 William Pitt the elder bought the property, subsequently rebuilding it. The birthplace of his son, Pitt the Younger in 1759 and the scene of his own death in 1778, it was visited by many of the major figures of the late 18th century but passed out of the family in 1785.

Hayes Place - Ideal Home
Other noted owners of Hayes Place included philanthropist Edward Wilson (who acquired the house in 1864) and Sir Everard Alexander Hambro (1880), who carried out improvements to Hayes village. Hayes Place was demolished in 1933 and houses were erected on the site. Image: Ideal Homes.

In 1880 Everard Hambro of the banking family, became the owner. Following his death in 1925 his son Eric decided to dispose of the estate for building, although the need for an improved infrastructure for this rural area meant delays.

As a result the house survived until 1933.

Developed as the Hayes Place Estate by Henry Boot, a Sheffield based company, roads such as Chatham Avenue and Hambro Avenue were named after figures associated with the house’s history.

“Where statesmen once met to discuss state matters, builders’ men now eat their lunches. Hayes Place, the historic mansion of the Pitts, is now used as a store for building materials.” – Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser – March 1933.

Henry Boot - Norwood News - 26 May 1933 - BNA

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Hambro Avenue in Hayes, Kent. This is named after one of the occupants of Hayes Place. Sheffield-builder Henry Boot demolished the house in 1933 and laid out the Hayes Place estate. Several local firms put up more estates, including Hayes Hill, Pickhurst Manor, and Hayes Gardens. Image: Google Streetview.

TATCHBURY MOUNT

Tatchbury Mount - mossclan-co-uk
“It may be before long, that the majority of the population of the county will be classed as mental deficients,” joked Sir George Jeffreys of Hampshire County Council when Tatchbury Mount was converted into a Colony for Mental Deficients. He had been protesting against the ever increasing expenditure on mental hospitals. Image: Mossclan.

Tatchbury Mount was built in the early 19th century, possibly for William Timson, or more likely for Henry Thomas Timson, a ‘gentleman of fortune’, who died in 1848. It passed to the Reverend Edward Timson, Master of the New Forest Foxhounds, until his death in 1873, and subsequently to his son, Captain Henry Timson, of the 5th Lancashire Regiment.

Tatchbury was later rented to Mr J.P. Hesletine and then Sir Daniel Fulthorpe Gooch, also of Clewer Park in Berkshire, the third holder of the baronetcy conferred in 1866 on Sir Daniel Gooch, for many years chairman of the Great Western Railway. The third baronet had accompanied Sir Ernest Shackleton in his 1914 Antarctic Expedition as far as South Georgia, signing on as an able seaman on the Endurance.

In 1927, Tatchbury Mount, still owned by the Timson family, was put up for sale and eventually sold to Hampshire County Council as a Colony for Mental Defectives. It opened in 1931 and after a long-use as a secure hospital, the site around it developed and still in use, the original mansion was surprisingly demolished in 2006.

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From the Western Gazette in May 1927. The Tatchbury Mount estate was put up for sale. On the day of the auction the mansion failed to sell. It was later sold to Hampshire County Council. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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William Timson, late of Moor Park, Surrey, died aged 78 at Tatchbury Mount in 1818. Henry Thomas Timson died in 1848. Image: DeviantArt.
Tatchbury Mount - Freshford
The Colony for Mental Defectives was established in 1931 at Tatchbury Mount. Three villas and a temporary hospital were built in 1939. A nearby house, Loperwood Manor, was acquired by 1941 and several buildings erected. Image: Freshford.

GOPSALL HALL

A century ago, Lord Howe was reported to be in financial difficulty. It came as no surprise when he sold this country house to a furniture baron, but there were troubled times ahead.

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The south front had an extremely imposing aspect, six Corinthian pillars supported friezes and bolsters of very graceful design while a receding pediment bore a sculpture of a ship in a storm to commemorate the naval victories of Lord Howe. Image: Hinckley Past and Present.

On August 21st 1918, The Pall Mall Gazette reported that the Gopsall estate in Leicestershire, one of the seats of Lord Howe, had been sold to Mr Samuel James Waring. The price was not disclosed, but the elastic figure was somewhere between £300,000 and £400,000. At one time the property had extended to 40,000 acres, but now comprised an area of 12,000 acres, including several villages. Gopsall Hall had sold for about £10,000.

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The north front at Gopsall Hall. Image: nortonjuxtatwycross.

The mansion was built in 1750, long thought to be by John Westley for Charles Jennens (1700-1773), the son of a Birmingham industrialist, at a cost of over £100,000. However, there is now speculation that it might have been the work of William or David Hiorn of Warwick.

Jennens was a keen follower of the arts and allowed his friend George Frederick Handel to stay for a time. Handel was reputed to have composed part of his ‘Messiah’ here and was responsible for the installation of a magnificent organ.

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In 1750, Gopsall Hall was built on a park of 300 acres for Charles Jennens a collector of fine art (his collection was one of the best in Britain at the time), the hall was designed by local architect John Westley and built by David Hiorns of Warwick, and the building and extensive gardens came to an estimated cost of more than £200,000.

It was inherited by his nephew Richard William Penn Asherton Curzon, whose mother was the eldest daughter of Admiral Howe. In later years, King Edward VII took advantage of the house’s shooting estate (as did Kaiser Wilhelm) and a silver bath was installed prior to his visit. Other visitors included Queen Adelaide during her long widowhood, and Winston Churchill.

A feature of Gopsall were its beautiful ceilings, the one in the dining room occupied nearly the whole space and represented Neptune riding in a nautilus shell drawn by horses.

According to the Pall Mall Gazette, Gopsall ‘may claim a prominent place in the ranks of the stately homes of England’.

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Every portion of woodwork in the hall was made from Lebanon cedar with the exception of the communion table of which the legs were carved from Boscobel Oak. Image: Hinckley Past and Present.

The sale, however, played sad havoc with the motto of the Curzons: ‘Let Curzon hold what Curzon held.’ Its new owner couldn’t resist the ‘splitting-up’ movement going on all over the country, and he intimated his willingness to consider proposals from tenants to purchase their holdings.

Samuel James Waring (1860-1940), known as Sir Samuel Waring, Bt, between 1919 and 1922, was a British industrialist, public servant and benefactor. He was the grandson of John Waring, who had arrived in Liverpool from Belfast in 1835 and established a wholesale cabinet maker business. In 1893, Waring was given the task of opening a branch of the family furniture making company in London. In 1897, Waring was responsible for the merger with Gillow and Company to become Waring & Gillow, and of which Waring became chairman.

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Samuel James Waring. In 1922, he was further honoured when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Waring, of Foots Cray Place in the County of Kent.

Seven years later, Waring sold the estate to the Government for £1 an acre and it was transferred to the Crown Estate. It was considered for various uses including that of a motor racing centre, an airfield and a country club. The house remained empty until World War Two when it was used by the No1 Radio Mechanics School of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as a radar training base. They left in 1945 and the house was once again abandoned. It suffered several fires in the 1940s, lead was stripped from its roof and many of its fittings stolen as souvenirs. In a poor state of repair, Gopsall Hall was demolished in 1952.

NOTE: The Pall Mall Gazette corrects an error made by most people, me included, that the estate was sold to Samuel Waring in 1919. We now know that it was in 1918.

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FRING HALL

When fire broke out a lack of water caused by summer drought resulted in this country house’s destruction

Fring Hall - Lost heritage
Image: Lost Heritage.

Between the autumns of 1933 and 1934, the southern counties of England suffered extreme drought. The summer wasn’t particularly hot, but lack of rainfall depleted surface water in rivers, streams, ponds and lakes, leaving many of them dry beds. The effect of this had devastating consequences for one Norfolk country house when it caught fire in the early hours of Saturday 23 June 1934.

Fring Hall, built in 1807, was one of the show mansions of West Norfolk, and home to the Hon. Somerset Arthur Maxwell (1905-1942), the eldest son of Arthur Kenlis Maxwell, 11th Baron Farnham. He’d married (Angela) Susan Roberts, daughter of Captain Marshall Owen Roberts, by his former wife Irene Helene Murray, in 1930.

The House, which stood in many acres of grounds, with a beautiful garden and park, had been leased from the Dusgate family, and redecoration had recently been completed in readiness for the incoming tenants.  It was described as ‘a neat cemented mansion, upon a commanding eminence, with extensive gardens and pleasure grounds’

Somerset Maxwell and Susan Roberts - The Sketch - Jun 4 1930 - BNA
Somerset Maxwell and his future wife, Susan Roberts. This picture was taken shortly before their marriage in 1930. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Mr Maxwell and his wife had arrived from London about an hour before the fire broke out. He at once communicated with the police when the outbreak was discovered by a servant, and the Sandringham Brigade from the King’s estate was the first to arrive.

So intense were the flames, that by 4 am only the walls were left standing, and some of these had become cracked and in danger of collapse. The roof and two wings had gone and the fine old mansion of about 60 rooms was little more than a blackened ruin.

Only a few hundred gallons of water were available to fight the flames. Owing to the drought there was no water in the ponds or in the ditches, and 60 men from five fire brigades and 20 Royal Air Force men could only stand by after the initial supply was exhausted. The main sources of water turned out to be a well in the grounds and some storage tanks, meaning only a few hoses could be used.

Flames rose to a great height and could be seen for miles, the roads full of motorists who had come to watch. One local resident was able to report on the blaze:

“Mr Maxwell, I believe, only took over the mansion about four months ago, but only returned to it yesterday to attend a Conservative meeting promoted by Viscountess Downe, at Hillington.

“In the glare of the fire he worked in his shirt sleeves, doing all he could to help the firemen. Valuable furniture and jewels were saved before the flames reached the front of the house, I understand.”

Despite the lack of water, men were able to get into the buildings and rescue most of the downstairs furniture and some from the bedrooms. All the jewellery and silver recovered were placed in a cell at Docking Police Station for safekeeping.

Fring Hall - Yumidk
Image: Lost Heritage.

Fring Hall was rebuilt in 1936 and said to be a copy of the original, although there are differences in its external appearance. The cropmark of the original building is said to appear in dry weather protruding from the side of the present house.

Lt-Colonel, the Hon. Somerset Maxwell, one of the country’s tallest MPs, died in 1942, of wounds he received in Agedabia (now Ajdabiya) in Libya.

Somerset Maxwell - The Bystander - Jun 7 1938 - BNA
Five Maxwells and a pony: Somerset Maxwell, MP for King’s Lynn since 1935, his wife, his sons and a small attractive daughter were photographed at Fring Hall in 1938. The house had been rebuilt after the fire. He would die four years later fighting in World War Two. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

These days Fring Hall is home to the Brun family. Henrik Constantin Brun (1908-2009) came over from Denmark before World War Two and worked for a large farming company before branching out on his own as a tenant on the Sandringham estate. His youngest son, Edward Henrik Constantin Brun (b. 1948), is now the occupier at Fring Hall with its woodland used to supply coppice and woodland products.

NEW MURTHLY CASTLE

A mansion that was only a shell, but would soon be no more

Murthly Castle -The Sphere - 12 Feb 1919 - BNA (1)
The stones of New Murthly Castle were used by the Hydro-Electric Board to help in building twenty-nine traditional-type four and five bedroomed houses at Tarbet (under the Loch Sloy scheme) and thirty-five houses at Pitlochry (under the Tummel-Garry Scheme). Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In February 1949, The Sphere published photographs of New Murthly Castle, at Dunkeld, in Perthshire, where demolition work was in progress. The stonework, amounting to 200,000 tons, was to be used to build workers’ houses near the new hydro-electric dam at Pitlochry, six miles away, and at Loch Sloy.

The castle, which was never completed, was begun in 1827 by Sir John Archibald Drummond Stewart, 6th Baronet (1794-1838), Laird of Murthly, and was said to be the outcome of his rivalry with John Campbell, 1st Marquess of Breadalbane (1762-1834) who had also started to rebuild Taymouth Castle in grandiose fashion.

Sir John called his residence New Murthly Castle and engaged John Gillespie Graham, said to be the most expensive architect in the country. When Sir John died during the progress of the work, Murthly was left just as it was, a magnificent empty shell.

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Experts bored into the ashlar with pneumatic drills, then strung charges of gelignite together with lengths of detonator cord.

Charlie Brand, an expert from ICI Nobel, who worked at the world’s largest dynamite works at Ardeer in Ayrshire, supervised the work. ‘The four flanking towers were pulled off their footings using a hawser attached to a huge Caterpillar tractor, then the central block was blown up by ICI’s men, using four tons of gelignite’.

Several hundred spectators turned up to watch.

John Stirling Maxwell, the founder of the National Trust for Scotland, said in 1937, that: “This unfinished house, for dignity, proportion and beauty stood quite alone in its day and is still without rival.” 

But these were the days before conservation. The National Trust for Scotland’s founding aim was to protect wild places from development, rather than to save buildings, and New Murthly Castle was lost.

Murthly Castle -The Sphere - 12 Feb 1919 - BNA (3)
The walls of New Murthly Castle crumble: One of the wings falling after the detonation of 900 lbs of explosive. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
Murthly Castle -The Sphere - 12 Feb 1919 - BNA (2)
After the dust had settled: Part of one wing of New Murthly Castle lies on the ground and a gaping hole is revealed. The castle had stood unfinished and untenanted since 1827. Ammunition was stored here between 1939 and 1945. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

WHEATCROFT CLIFF

A Victorian country house you’ve most likely never heard of… except you did know it – and twenty-five years ago it fell into the sea

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In 1879, when George Alderson-Smith decided to build a new house on a clifftop above Scarborough, he chose not to listen to those people who thought it ill-advised. It was common knowledge that there was a history of cliff collapses in the area, but the house called Wheatcroft Cliff was built anyway. He died here in 1931, reaching the grand old age of 96, still declaring the property ‘safe as houses’.

114 years later, his words were little comfort to Barry and Joan Turner who had bought the property in 1988. In June 1993, after a period of heavy rainfall, the world watched as the now-named Holbeck Hall Hotel fell into the sea, the victim of a rotational landslip. It seemed that the Victorian doom-mongers had been correct after all.

It was a tragic end for the former ‘country house by the sea’. It had to be demolished completely after the incident, and twenty-five years on, there are few traces of its existence.

George Alderson-Smith (1834-1931), a native of Leeds, was the son of Mr John Smith, J.P., of Burley House and Belvedere in Harrogate, a partner in the firm of Beckett and Co. He had lived in Scarborough for nearly half a century, the whole time connected with the fishing industry. He was one of the town’s biggest steam trawler owners, amassing a small fortune and a reputation to match. This wealth allowed him to build Wheatcroft Cliff looking over Scarborough’s picturesque South Bay.

Holbeck Gardens - Stories from Scarborough

In time, Alderson-Smith became chairman of the Grand Hotel Company, chairman of the South Cliff Tramway Company and a director of the Scarborough Spa Company. His standing in the community also allowed him to become a J.P. for the North Riding of Yorkshire and eventually Deputy Lieutenant of the same county. Two of his mischievous sons, Hubert and Alder, had caused significant embarrassment when they appeared before Scarborough Police Court in 1889 after throwing five public seats over a cliff.

Alderson-Smith’s fishing business didn’t end well, his last three trawlers – the Seal, the Otter and Dalhousie – were sunk by First World War enemy submarines somewhere off Aberdeen, but by this time he was well into retirement. When Alderson-Smith died in 1931 he left gross estate to the value of £107,736 (net £93,812).

Wheatcroft Cliff was described as ‘standing in six acres of secluded grounds at the extremity of the South Cliff, from where it overlooked Holbeck Gardens and the coast, north and south’.  The contents of Wheatcroft Cliff were quickly sold at auction. The important collections included antique furniture, oriental porcelain of the Ming and Chinese dynasties, fine old English silver, oil paintings, watercolours, arms and armour and a fine library of books.

In June 1932, Wheatcroft Cliff was bought by Messrs Laughton, the proprietors of the Pavilion Hotel in Scarborough, who announced that the mansion was going to be converted into a first-class hotel. Mr Robert Thomas Laughton was the brother of Charles Laughton, the actor, and whose family had been operating hotels in Scarborough for 30 years. He told the Leeds Mercury that they had been searching for some years through various parts of the country for an estate suitable for an hotel to stand in its own grounds, which he considered to be a feature of the most successful first-class holiday hotels.

All the architectural features of Wheatcroft Cliff were preserved, but a new wing was built to accommodate its new services. Once the conversion was completed it had cost nearly £40,000.

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Scarborough was actor Charles Laughton’s boyhood home, where he had his first experience of acting as a member of Scarborough Amateur Players. “I found him in holiday mood, strolling in the beautiful grounds of Holbeck Hall Hotel, which his mother and two brothers recently opened.” From the Leeds Mercury. 3 September 1935. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

“Charles Laughton is once again in the news. I can hardly pick up a paper without seeing some review of his new film ‘Vessel of Wrath’. Though I will admit to being one of his fans, there is something which appeals to me far more, and that is the Laughton Hotels at Scarborough – the Pavilion, the Royal and Holbeck Hall. Now, the Laughton Hotels at Scarborough are a family concern. Although Charles is a director, it is his mother and his two brothers, Tom and Fred, who are in active control. In nearly every town you will find a local name, and I believe I am correct in saying that the Laughtons have been associated with hotel keeping in Scarborough since the first one was opened. Perhaps my favourite of the Laughton hotels is Holbeck Hall – the hotel with a view. Here there are six acres of private ground stretching down to the beach, and you can walk straight from your bedroom down to the sea in your swimming suit. There are all the characteristics of a country mansion. In the hall is a magnificent baronial fireplace, beautiful parquet floor, a minstrels’ gallery – everything, in fact, to promote a sense of well-being.” – ‘Hotel Discoveries’ by Ashley Courtenay in The Illustrated and Sporting Dramatic News – March 18 1938.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - 28 Apr 1934 - BNA
From the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 28 April 1934. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

And so Wheatcroft Cliff began life as the four-star Holbeck Hall Hotel. Although it was used briefly as part of a scheme to re-settle returned prisoners of war after World War Two.  The property passed through other owners until it was bought by Barry and Joan Turner, who added it to their English Rose Hotels portfolio.

Until that fateful day in 1993. Cracks had been seen near the hotel some weeks before, but it took until the night of 3 June for the cliff near the hotel to finally give way. Guests had to make a quick exit after its owners realised the seriousness of the situation following the landslip which left the building perched perilously close to the edge.  As the cliff continued to collapse, parts of the building soon began to follow.

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The hotel was in ruins by the time the ground finally stabilised by the end of the weekend, and what was left was bulldozed into the ground two weeks later. The Turners later used the insurance money to buy a new hotel in Malton and continued to build up their hotel empire.

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At the bottom of the cliff where the Holbeck Hall Hotel once stood, the material which fell during the landslip between 3-5 June 1993 has been landscaped, giving little clue as to the dramatic events which took place there 25 years ago. Image: BBC News.