Category Archives: DEMOLISHED HOUSES

PANTON HALL

Panton Hall (Ipernity)
The garden front of Panton Hall, Lincolnshire, about 1900  (Ipernity)


Built around 1720. Demolished 1964.

Panton Hall, the seat of Edmund Turnor esq. MA., D.L., J.P. lord of the manor and principal landowner, is a handsome mansion of white brick, situated on a finely wooded eminence, and surrounded by a beautifully undulating and park-like country.
(Kelly’s Directory of Lincolnshire, 1896)

Panton Hall, near Wragby, was one of those magnificent country houses lost simply because the owners could not afford its upkeep.

The house was built around 1720 by the Gace family on an elevation with faraway views of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Joseph Gace, Receiver of the Land Tax for Lindsey, had asked William Talman (1650-1719) to design the house. However, the death of Talman in 1719 ended his association with the house. Just how far he had got with his plans is uncertain but a copy of the design is believed to have existed until the 1950s and is presumed lost or simply mislaid.

It was left to Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736) to complete the task but just how much was down to Talman’s blueprint is ambiguous as building work was already underway during 1719. Hawksmoor was an able replacement. He studied under John Vanbrugh who had employed him at Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace. The three-storey house with a front canted bay was completed in 1727¹.

The completion of the house might just have been the start of Gace’s problems. It undoubtedly cost a lot of money and, through bad debt, would eventually lose control of his estates including Panton Hall. In 1742 the house passed to Gace’s son-in-law, Carr Brackenbury (1714-1763), who owned the house until his death².

His trustees transferred ownership of the house to Sir Jacob Wolff (1740-1809) in 1767. He was the son of Baron Godfrey Wolff of Moscow and had married Anne, the only daughter of the Right Hon. Edward Weston of Somersby Hall, the Secretary of State for Ireland, a year earlier. His intention may have been to make Panton Hall a family home but history suggests he spent little time there and did little for its upkeep. By the end of his six year stay the house was in a state of disrepair¹.

Panton House
Panton House. From The Seats and Nobility and Gentry in Great Britain and Wales in a Collection of Select Views.

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.

Panton Hall from NW (Revival Heritage)
Panton Hall seen from parkland to the north west (Revival Heritage)

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.

Panton Hall (Matthew Beckett)
Panton Hall (Lost Heritage)

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 1 (Matthew Beckett)
The south end of Panton Hall (Lost Heritage)

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 Auction 1917 (Lincolnshire Chronicle July 28 1917)
Auction advertisement. Lincolnshire Chronicle. July 28th 1917 (British Newspaper Archive)

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.

Sir John Denton Marsden (British Newspaper Archive)
Sir John Denton Marsden, 1st Baronet (British Newspaper Archive)

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.

Panton Hall (Jack Hall)
The garden front at Panton Hall seen shortly before demolition (Jack Hall)

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 Entrance (Revival Heritage)
The decaying entrance hall leading to the main staircase (Revival Heritage)
Panton Hall 1950 (Jack Hunt)
Ground floor plan of Panton Hall. Original print from The Lincolnshire Historian No 7 Spring 1951 (Jack Hunt)

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.

Panton Hall Stables (Deviant Art)
The derelict stable block is all that remains of Panton Hall (Deviant Art)

According to the DiCamillo Companion plans were submitted in 2002 to rebuild the house but these came to nothing.

 ¹ Lincs Revival Heritage
² Inheriting the Lincoln Mantua – Research Well Lincolnshire
³ Lost Lincolnshire Country Houses – Volume 5 (Robert Pacey) 2002
⁴ A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects 1660-1840 (Howard Colvin) 1954
⁵ No Voice from the Hall (John Harris) 1998
⁶ Lincolnshire Chronicle/Stamford Mercury 1866
⁷ Lincolnshire Echo August 1917
⁸ Lincolnshire Echo June 1931
⁹ Lincolnshire Echo May 1935

The DiCamillo Companion:
http://www.dicamillocompanion.com/Houses_detail.asp?ID=1560

EASTON HALL

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Easton Hall, Lincolnshire,  in 1902 (Country Life)

Built 1840s. Demolished 1951-1952

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).
(Historic England)

“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.

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Easton Hall (1902) – the east front with carriage porch (Country Life)

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.

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Easton Hall. A sketch from the 1870s
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Easton Hall – the same view pictured in 2014

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

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.

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Looking down from the west terrace towards the River Witham in 1902 (Country Life)

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.

marshall-owen-roberts
Marshall Owen Roberts (Vanity Fair)

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.

Easton hall
A 1921 photograph of Roger Wethered teeing off at Easton Hall. John Whittington’s grandfather, Ben Robert Cooper, is on the right with the very flat cap. Is the shorter gentleman, to the left of the man in Plus4’s, Marshall Roberts? (John Whittington)

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.

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The carriageway to nowhere. Remains of an elaborate gate from Easton Hall (2014)

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.

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Remains of Easton Hall terrace in 2014

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’.

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Anthony Salvin’s gatehouse and courtyard (1902) (Country Life)
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The same view. The gatehouse standing in 2014


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.

Country Life Magazine visits Easton Hall in 1902

Easton Walled Gardens,
Easton, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG33 5AP

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