A stately home without a Duke. How its treasures were cared for in the absence of the Duke of Devonshire
The domain of Chatsworth was purchased by Sir William Cavendish and it was he in 1553 who began the old mansion, which after his death in 1557 was completed by his widow, Bess of Hardwick. Here in succeeding years Mary Queen of Scots was five times imprisoned. The present mansion includes the old Palladian pile started in 1687 by the first Duke of Devonshire and the north-wing added in 1820.
With its 636,000 visitors a year, Chatsworth House may have become one of our greatest stately homes. However, life in the Duke of Devonshire’s grand mansion wasn’t always a bed of roses. In 1946, The Sphere painted a rather bleak and uninspiring outlook for the house, a stark contrast to its present-day fortunes.
Back then, ‘one of the private treasure-houses of the nation’ was reduced to one housemaid, a sole survivor of a pre-war domestic staff of forty, and the whole house was being kept on a caretaking basis.
Chatsworth House was without a Duke. Taxation of the time made it impossible for him to live there in the old style while the servant problem was almost insuperable. It was suggested that one day the Duke might return to his Derbyshire home, but he himself didn’t expect this to happen for many years.
The custodian was Edward William Spencer Cavendish (1895-1950), the 10th Duke of Devonshire, who was still reeling from the loss of his eldest son and heir, William John Robert Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, who had been killed in wartime action two years before. The future of Chatsworth would have rested on the shoulders of Billy Cavendish (and his wife, Kathleen Kennedy), but instead the weight of responsibility later fell to his second and younger son, Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish (1920-2004).
The Chatsworth estate was saddled with debt. Death duties, liabilities from previous incumbents and a depression in British agriculture had all contributed to its downfall. In 1920, Devonshire House, the family’s London mansion, had been sold to developers and later demolished; Chiswick House, a Palladian villa in West London was sold to Brentford Council in 1929. However, the financial burden refused to go away, and it was quite impossible to keep Chatsworth House occupied.
While Chatsworth was mothballed everything was being done to preserve its treasures, including its magnificent library, with its 35,000 books, including many irreplaceable first editions, and the art collection, including canvases by Murillo Van Eyck, Titian, Reynolds and other masters.
During World War 2 Chatsworth had been occupied by the Penrhos Girls’ College and it had taken its toll. Fumes from moth-balls in stored carpets, and lack of oxygen due to occupation of rooms by large numbers of people, had affected many of the pictures. Inadequate heating during the acute coal shortage caused fluctuations in temperature which caused the canvas of paintings to contract and expand, leading in time to cracking and flaking.
A small staff of experts had been brought in to repair years of inevitable neglect. Pictures were being cleaned, and the books whose leather was becoming brittle were being dressed in ointment, developed by the British Museum.
When the 10th Duke of Devonshire died in 1950 there were death duties of £7 million. The 11th Duke, Andrew Cavendish, along with his wife Deborah (‘Debo’), fought hard to keep the estate, selling tens of thousands of acres of land, transferring Hardwick Hall to the National Trust in lieu of taxes, and selling major works of art. Chatsworth House opened to the public in 1948-49, but it would take until 1959 for the 11th Duke of Devonshire to move back into the house. It was a happy outcome and the rest, as they say, is history. Chatsworth House
Nether Hall has been owned by the same family for 179 years who decided, in the summer of 2017, to put the house on the market with a price tag of £2.5 million.
According to legend six halls around Hathersage were built by William the Conqueror and given to the family of six Eyre brothers for ‘valorous conduct’ in the conquest of England.These were Hathersage Hall, North Lees Hall, Nether Hall, Hogg Hall, Haselford Hall and Highlow Hall.
When James Waterhouse Smith, also of Clarence Terrace in Regent’s Park, chose to leave Nether Hall in the 1830s, he sold it to John Spencer Ashton Shuttleworth (1817-1894) of Hathersage Hall. Shuttleworth represented the old family of the Ashtons of Hathersage who had gained wealth through their extensive Derbyshire lead mines. Never a businessman but a country gentleman and keen forester, he held a firm belief that landed property was safe security, his foresight in purchasing land fully justifying his policy.
He demolished old Nether Hall and replaced it with a coarsed gritstone mansion between 1838 and 1840 to the designs of Sheffield architect William Flockton, responsible for many of the city’s grand buildings and having significant influence on the market town of Bakewell. Soon after it became the inspiration of ‘Mr Oliver’s grand hall down i’ Morton Vale’ in Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ published in 1847.
The sales information tells you that it has remained in the Shuttleworth family ever since although for the first hundred years the ‘Victorian property developer’ approach meant Nether Hall was tenanted.
First there was Charles James Peel, then Joseph Bright, a Sheffield estate and insurance agent, Mark Thomas Dixon, a director of the Hallamshire File and Steel Company and Thomas Norton Longman, head of the publishers Longmans, Green and Co (established in 1724 and now known as Longman, owned by Pearson). On his father’s death he left Nether Hall for the family seat at Shendish House in Hertfordshire. Its next tenant was F.C. Fairholme, a director of steel manufacturers Thomas Firth and Sons. Of course, the Shuttleworths eventually took advantage of the old house’s charms and have lived there for most of its recent history.
Built: 1795 with extensive C19 and C20 additions Architect: Unknown with remodelling by Robert Scrivener c1861 Owner: Marriott Hotels for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority ADIA) Country house hotel and country club Grade II listed
“The plan is a trifle untidy, due to the complex evolution of this fascinating house. The general effect is rather sad.” The Derbyshire Country House (Maxwell Craven and Michael Stanley)
The above comments may appear rather harsh. However, it is true that the visitor to Breadsall Priory wanders from old to new almost as soon as they enter this grand old mansion. Recent additions have confused the layout but there remains, at its core, an almost intact Elizabethan mansion, a 19th-century house and the ruins of a 13th century priory owned by the Austin Canons.
Breadsall Priory is a former Augustinian priory in Derbyshire, close to the city of Derby, and situated around two kilometres north of Breadsall, and two kilometres east of Little Eaton.
The early years
In 1536 all monasteries with revenue less than £200 a year were suppressed by Henry VIII and handed over to the Crown. Breadsall Priory and its land was leased to Laurence Holland of Belper in 1537 and used for agricultural purposes.
In 1552 it was handed to Henry, Duke of Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane Grey, but he only retained ownership for a few months. He sold it to Thomas Babington of Dethick and Kingston in 1553.
Babington sold Breadsall Priory to Thomas Hutchinson in 1557 and by 1573 it was in the hands of John Leeke, the uncle of Bess of Hardwick.
Around 1795 it was bought by Sir John Bentley, a knight and Councillor-at-Law. By this time the Priory had been inhabited and in ruinous state. Bentley converted the priory into a tall e-shaped dwelling and lived there until 1621.
Following John Bentley’s death in 1622 the house passed via his heiress to Sir Gervase Cutler and then to Sir Edward Mosley of Ancoats, from whom it descended to a distant cousin, also called Sir Edward Moseley.
He granted Breadsall Priory to his son-in-law, Sir John Bland of Kippax in Yorkshire, in 1693. Bland sold the house to Thomas Leacroft of Wirksworth for £1,675 in 1702. The following year Leacroft sold it to Andrew Greensmith of Steeple Grange, a partner in his lead smelting business.
Breadsall Priory remained with the Greensmith family until 1799 and underwent a series of alterations including re-siting of the main entrance from the east front to an extension on the north side. The last family occupant was Hannah Greensmith Beard of Lincoln who died in 1797. Her sons sold the house and grounds to Erasmus Darwin in 1799.
The first few years of Darwin ownership proved tragic but the name will always be associated with Breadsall Priory.
According to Nick Redman, Erasmus Darwin (1759-1799) was 41-years-old and unmarried when he bought the estate.
He was the son of Dr Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) whose scientific and philosophical achievements were well-known across the land. He was a physician, poet, and botanist noted for his republican politics and materialistic theory of evolution. Although today he is perhaps best known as being the grandfather of naturalist Charles Darwin and of biologist Sir Francis Galton.
Dr Erasmus Darwin had married Mary, daughter of Charles Howard of Lichfield, who produced three sons – Charles (who died aged 19), Erasmus (II) and Robert (who was father to Charles Darwin).
Erasmus, the second son and new owner of Breadsall Priory, had wanted to enter the church but instead became an attorney-at-law specialising in property and opening a practice in Derby.
He bought Breadsall Priory in November 1799 but on the night of 29 December ran out of the house in a distressed state and was later found drowned in the River Derwent. The exact circumstances of his anguish remain a mystery but the likelihood is that he committed suicide.
Breadsall Priory reverted to his father, Dr Erasmus Darwin, who had been living in Derby since 1783.
Darwin probably commissioned an extension on the east front of the house but didn’t move in until March 1802.
His stay lasted a matter of weeks and on 18 April Darwin died from a heart attack. His second wife, Elisabeth, widow of Colonel Chandos Pole of Radbourne, remained at Breadsall Priory until her death in 1832. (Darwin had married Elisabeth Pole in 1781 and had three sons and three daughters).
Following Elisabeth’s death Breadsall Priory was inherited by their only surviving son, Francis Sacheverel Darwin (1786-1859).
Graduating from Emmanuel College, Cambridge he travelled the world aged 22-years-old. Darwin had started with four others, one of whom was his brother-in-law Theodore Galton, on a tour through Spain, the Mediterranean and the Near East. They came in contact with war, robbers, privateers and the plague and only Darwin returned alive.
Francis became a physician inheriting his father’s tastes and distinguished abilities. He had lived for a time at Lichfield where he had an extensive practice and subsequently at Sydnope near Matlock.
In 1815 he married Jane Harriot Ryle, youngest daughter of John Ryle of Park House, Macclesfield, and had three sons and seven daughters. He was knighted by George IV in 1820 and served as a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of Derbyshire.
After his mother’s death Francis made Breadsall Priory available for rent. In 1842 an advertisement in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette offered the house on a 5 year let:-
‘The most beautiful and desirable residence, four miles from Derby, containing every accommodation for a genteel Family, with gardens, orchards, pleasure grounds, fish-ponds, rookery etc. And about 25 acres of rich pasture land, with a cottage for servant or labourer. There are several packs of hounds in the immediate vicinity, and the tenant may have the exclusive rights of shooting over the farm adjoining. The house is abundantly supplied with the softest and purest spring water’.¹
The last tenant at Breadsall Priory was Joseph Webster whose family developed a wire drawing business in Sutton Coldfield. He had safeguarded the firm against competition from a new patent piano wire by successfully negotiating a merger and creating Webster & Horsfall Ltd of Penns Mill. The company would also produce the wire used in the first transatlantic cable. Webster left Breadsall Priory and moved to Ashfurlong House at Sutton Coldfield.
Francis Darwin finally moved into Breadsall Priory in 1847. He was a keen antiquarian and carried out several excavations hoping to find a tunnel that was rumoured to run from the house to Horsley Castle three miles away. He dug a trench along the north side of the house but found nothing.
In his later years Francis Darwin lived in retirement and due to age and increasing infirmities was unable to mix in society. He died in 1859 and Lady Darwin moved to Breadsall Lodge nearby.
In January 1860 Breadsall Priory and its estate were put up for auction at the Royal Hotel in Derby. Bidding opened at £10,000 and was sold to Mr Francis Morley for £13,000.
In March the entire contents of the house were auctioned and Morley took possession on March 25 1860.
Just three days later an advertisement appeared in the Derby Mercury advising builders and others ‘desirous of contracting for several works connected with alterations and additions to obtain plans and specifications from the architect’, Robert Scrivener, of Hanley in the Potteries.²
Francis Morley (1810-1883)
Francis Morley was the son of Richard Morley of Sneinton Hall near Nottingham. The hosiery firm of I. and R. Morley was established by John (1768-1849) and his brother Richard (1775-1855) in about 1797.
Hosiery was still primarily a cottage industry at the time. Entrepreneurs like I. and R. Morley were essentially wholesalers, buying in goods and storing them in warehouses in Nottingham and in the City of London.
Francis Morley might have been expected to join the family business and for a time did play an important part. However, marriage took Morley into the world of pottery with considerable success.
In 1835 he married 18-year-old Emma Ridgway, daughter of the famous potter William Ridgway. Morley became a partner in Ridgway, Morley, Wear and Co and in 1842 became sole proprietor with Ridgway.
The nineteenth-century historian Llewellyn Jewitt said that ‘Morley entered with spirit into the pottery business and into the life of Staffordshire.’
When Ridgway retired Morley continued the business alone before going into partnership with Samuel Astbury and trading as Francis Morley & Co.
Business was carried out at the Broad Street Works, Shelton, in Hanley, but Morley recognised the importance of new markets and built a factory in Philadelphia, USA.
The company became famous for its ironstone and earthenware and was producer of the acclaimed Mason’s Patent Ironstone China. (Morley had bought many of Charles James Mason’s moulds when the latter went bankrupt in 1848). This product is now highly collectable in modern antique markets.
The partnership with Samuel Astbury was dissolved in 1853 and Morley took another partner, Taylor Ashworth, with whom he worked until 1862 before taking retirement.
It was with this in mind that Morley bought Breadsall Priory in 1860. Until then the house looked almost as it did in John Bentley’s day. The only change had been east front additions and Morley was keen to bring the house up to Victorian standards.
Morley returned to the Potteries and engaged the services of the architect Robert Scrivener (1812-1878). The Ipswich-born son of master builder William Scrivener had moved to Staffordshire in the 1850s, establishing a practice in Shelton, close to Morley’s Broad Street works. Scrivener was one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects designing many of Hanley’s most notable buildings.
The style chosen for Breadsall Priory was theatrical and changed the appearance entirely. The Victorian Gothic style was complicated and hid most of the original house behind a new façade.
Nick Redman in An Illustrated History of Breadsall Priory described the dramatic effect:-
‘Morley began by removing all the additions on the east side. He then added a large three bay extension which butted up to the front of the old house, leaving only Bentley’s attic floor visible. On the central bay was a projecting porch with a balustrade and battlemented corner turrets.
‘North of the porch he placed a separate castellated extension with a new dining room at ground floor level, and with bedrooms and bathrooms above. Below it two wine cellars linked to the basement beneath Bentley’s north east tower.
‘Between this extension and the old house Morley inserted another block, also castellated. The Gun Room on the ground floor had a side door. The construction of these new buildings covered or destroyed the Priory foundations revealed earlier by Sir Francis Darwin.
‘The old entrance hall which had been very narrow, was enlarged by taking away a large portion of the lower section of Bentley’s central tower, in which was formerly a winding staircase. The new entrance hall measured 24 square feet, with solid parquet flooring, the centre of oak and walnut interlaced, with an ornamental border of elaborate design. The principal staircase was of carved oak.
‘The gabled stage of the south-east tower was replaced by another floor with battlements and overhanging corner turrets. Above this was a tall octagonal stair tower with cross arrow slits, machicolations and battlements.
‘West of this tower Morley replaced the large gabled return with a replica of one of Bentley’s gables, but retaining Bentley’s mullioned window within it. He inserted a new window of four lights and added below it a large canted bay with a trefoil-headed battlemented windows under quatrefoil decorations.
‘West again he built a billiard room. It was single storey and thus most of the west front of Bentley’s house was left untouched. The room had an open carved roof lit by skylights, and with a three-light traceried window to the south. It was furnished in the Moorish style.’
The house was completed in autumn 1861 and Morley spent the next few years developing the grounds and parkland at a cost of about £4,000.
Despite originally investing in new farm buildings Morley decided to withdraw from agriculture in 1875 selling all his livestock and equipment.
In his later years Francis Morley suffered ill-health.
George Ashworth, the father of Taylor Ashworth, wrote “Mr M would beat mother just now in a walking stick match for she cannot even stand.” Jane M. Diener wrote that Morley and his wife Emma lived in retirement served by a butler, footman, housemaid and lady’s maid.³
Francis Morley died in 1883, aged 73. In his will he left personal estate amounting to over £71,000. He left Breadsall Priory and its estate to his wife for life, then his nephew, William Statham, for life, and on the death of the survivor, to his nephew’s son, Francis Statham.⁴
However, his widow had no intention of staying at Breadsall Priory. On June 17 1884 the entire estate was offered for auction at the Mart, Tokenhouse Yard, London.
Henry Joseph Wood (1851-1920)
The purchaser of Breadsall Priory was Henry Joseph Wood. He was a native of Kent, being the son of Edward Wood of Aylesford. In 1876 he married Jane Cooper, the only daughter of Joseph Cooper of Trent Vale, Staffordshire, and moved to the midlands.
Quite how Wood made his living is uncertain but prior to buying Breadsall Priory he was living with his family at The Hollies, the Cooper’s ancestral home at Trent Vale.
In 1885 Wood qualified as a magistrate for Derbyshire and also served on Derbyshire County Council. In 1888 he was elected the President of the Derbyshire General Infirmary.
Wood was a man of many interests. In his younger days he had been a keen cricketer, playing for the Derbyshire Friars. He was also fond of hunting, and was well-known with the North Staffordshire, the Meynell and the South Nottinghamshire packs. He was also a keen shooter and kept this up until old age.
In farming he always took an active interest and regarded this as one of his chief hobbies. At Breadsall Priory he soon built up a herd of dairy cows and a stud of shire horses
His stay at Breadsall Priory proved to be relatively short. In March 1892 he auctioned his entire farming stock and made plans to return to his native Kent.
Wood moved to Bidborough Court, a huge Victorian house built in the 1860’s near Tunbridge Wells, and previously known as Elm Court.
He became a J.P. for Kent as well as serving on Kent County Council. He became a visiting justice for the Kentish Asylums and the County Gaol, and devoted much of his time with the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society.
Jane Cooper, his beloved ‘Jeannie’, died in 1917 and proved a devastating loss to Wood. He died in July 1920, aged 70, when heart trouble was followed by other complications. He left three sons and six daughters.⁵
Richard Rainshaw Rothwell (1860-1948)
Henry James Wood sold Breadsall Priory to Captain Richard Rainshaw Rothwell. It is likely that he bought the house with the proceeds of an inheritance from his uncle, also called Richard Rainshaw Rothwell.
The older Rothwell had been the owner of large estates in the Bolton area of Lancashire who, for his active interest and financial contributions towards Italian unity, had been created the Marquis de Rothwell and later a Marquis of the kingdom of Italy. He lived at Sharples Hall, Bolton-le-Moors and died in 1890 leaving no male heir. The majority of his vast estate passed to his nephew, Richard Rainshaw Rothwell, the son of his brother, Ralph Rothwell.
Rothwell, the younger, was born in Dunkirk, France, in 1861. He spent most of his childhood in Kent before attending a Gentleman’s School in Hampstead. He married Mary Constance Murdock in 1881 and settled in Berkshire. By the time he inherited his fortune he was living at Finley House at Andover in Hampshire.
He became a J.P. for Lancashire but quite how he came upon Breadsall Priory is open to speculation.
Newspapers reported that Rothwell was going to make considerable improvements to the house and he made good his promise. He provided a supply of spring water from two powerful springs and created a 30,000 gallon reservoir. This supplied the house and outbuildings as well as the ornamental lake and fountains. Rothwell also installed electric lighting throughout the house.
According to Nick Redman he was also thought to have installed a three-manual barrel organ built by Alfred Noble of Birmingham. This stood in the entrance hall and was used until after the First World War. In 1975 it was presented to the Darwin School at Chaddeston but subsequently dismantled.
In 1894 Rothwell sold Sharples Hall and we might have expected him to have made long-term plans for Breadsall Priory.
However, Rothwell’s interest in the house was waning and may even have overstretched his finances. In November 1896 the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald reported that Sir Alfred Haslam had ‘practically acquired’ the ownership of Breadsall Priory.
The following year the following appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette:-
“Large estates continue to be put on the market. We understand that offers will now be received for Breadsall priory, the Cantley estate of 4,500 acres, near Doncaster, and Poynton Birches, on the borders of Derbyshire.”⁶
In May 1897 Messrs. Walton and Lee were preparing auction of Breadsall Priory. The house came with 135 acres of rich grass land but the property was eventually withdrawn from the market.
In August 1897 the estate was sold by private treaty. The buyer was Sir Alfred Seale Haslam who had been interested in Breadsall Priory for several months.
Richard Rainshaw Rothwell moved to Hove, in Sussex, where he was reported to be living on his own personal wealth. He later moved to Devon where he resided at Morebath Manor until his death in 1948.
Sir Alfred Seale Haslam (1844-1927)
“Sir Alfred was very proud of the place, and when I called on him, not many months before his death, he took the greatest pleasure in showing me round the house and grounds.” (Gossiper – Derby Daily Telegraph 9 July 1930)
Alfred Seale Haslam was the fourth son of William Haslam, an iron-trader from Derby.
Alfred was educated at the Diocesan School and privately. He started work as a practical engineer at the works of the Midland Railway Company in Derby and the establishment of W.C. Armstrong and Co at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1868 he returned to Derby and joined the Union Foundry and Engineering Works at Little Chester.
It was in 1880 that Alfred had pioneered an early refrigeration system. The equipment allowed for the transport of meat in sound condition from the colonies of the Antipodes. The following year it was fitted to a steamer which transported 17,000 carcases to Britain from Australia.
The idea was ridiculed at first and there was opposition from the British agricultural interest and the prejudice of the British consumer.
He risked between £25,000 and £30,000 in support of his guarantee that the meat carcases would not suffer in transportation. It revolutionised the meat trade and changed the meat-eating habits of the country.⁷
The process made a fortune for Alfred Seale Haslam and in no time at all millions of carcases and sheep were imported from far away. It quickly became an indispensable part of equipment for warships, liners and meat stores. The process was also applied to other colonial food products such as butter, cheese and fruit. Its usefulness also allowed warships to store explosives at an even temperature. Other products manufactured included boilers, hoists, mill machinery and air conditioning equipment for hospitals overseas.⁸
The company was converted into a limited company in 1876 and was renamed as the Haslam Foundry and Engineering Company Ltd. He became the Managing Director and principal shareholder.
A devout Baptist, Alfred married Annie Tatum, the daughter of Mr Thomas Tatum of the Elms, Little Eaton, in 1875. They lived at North Lees, Duffield Road, Derby.
Haslam became a Borough magistrate in 1886 and a Derbyshire magistrate in 1891. He became Mayor of Derby in 1890 and 1891. In the year of his second term he received Queen Victoria on her visit to the town and was later knighted on the platform of Derby Station.
Alfred was chosen as a Unionist candidate for Derby in the general election of 1892 but suffered defeat. He filled many public offices in Derby, including the Presidency of the Derby Chamber of Commerce and the Derby Children’s Hospital.
With considerable personal wealth it was only fitting that Alfred Seale Haslam was looking for a home of better standing. However, his move to Breadsall Priory in 1898 led to a parting of ways with Derby Corporation.
His new house was outside the borough and disqualified him from council matters. His qualification further failed owing to his company being a limited liability company and therefore carried no vote. The difficulty might have been overcome had Haslam rented a single room at his works or even taken a room elsewhere in the borough. Haslam refused and his council duties came to an abrupt end.
Settled in his new home Alfred offered his services to Newcastle-under-Lyme across the border in Staffordshire. He was not a regular member of the council but was Mayor for three successive years from 1902. For a time he combined this role with that of Unionist M.P. for Newcastle, winning his seat by 182 votes in 1900, and sat until 1906 when he was a victim of the great Unionist debacle of that year.
Alfred donated a statue of Queen Victoria which still stands at the Blackfriars end of the Thames Embankment in London. Similar statues were also funded for Derby and Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Although Sir Alfred Seale Haslam resided in London he spent as much time as possible at Breadsall Priory. He added a large west wing in Elizabethan style obscuring half of Bentley’s west front.
According to Nick Redman he made significant alterations:-
“He demolished Morley’s billiard room, replacing it with a library. Beyond that he built his own billiard room complete with minstrels’ gallery and raised seats for the spectators. It was a striking room, decorated like Morley’s in Moorish style, with a moulded plaster ceiling with pendants. The large window on the north side looked out in Haslam’s day into a little courtyard complete with a rockery.
“At the west end of the south front Haslam built a gable matching Morley’s replica gable of 1861. Haslam’s coat of arms and the date 1899 are still visible above the library’s bay window. In the room at ground floor level below the billiard room was a small windowless area for use as a photographic dark room. (This was used by Haslam’s eldest son, Alfred Victor Haslam who took many photographs of Breadsall Priory).
“The drawing room was accessed from the entrance hall by a separate flight of stairs running parallel to the main staircase.
“In the dining room the fine oak panelling covering the lower half of the walls came from Sir Alfred’s Derby home (presumably North Lees).
“Outside the dining room Haslam installed a large Gothic door made by his father, William Haslam. The door had been displayed at the Great Exhibition in 1851 as an example of ancient church wrought iron-work and was hugely praised.
“Haslam made only one change to the east front of the house. He inserted into the balustrade over Morley’s porch a large stone bearing his coat of arms and motto ‘Agnus Dei Salvator Meus’”
In August 1904, Alfred, keen to show off his new country house, invited the whole of his workpeople at the Haslam Engineering Works to Breadsall Priory, together with their wives. In total there were about 700 people present for the occasion of the homecoming of his son, Alfred Victor Haslam, and his new bride.
Haslam later commissioned Thomas Hayton Mawson, the garden designer, to develop the pleasure grounds. A new rose garden was created in 1909 and it is thought that many fragments of stone from the old priory were finally cleared away.
Sir Alfred Haslam attracted much interest at the outbreak of World War One.
When hostilities started Haslam, along with his two daughters, was visiting the German spa at Homberg. For several days the three, together with other English visitors, were semi-prisoners in their hotel. His release was probably due to his age, and a most unpleasant journey to the Dutch border followed, before travelling back to Breadsall Priory. The ordeal caused Alfred much anxiety and he was confined to bed suffering from a severe shock to his nerves.⁹
While Breadsall Priory became Alfred’s ‘pride and joy’ it also experienced tragedy.
In 1907 Alfred’s eldest son, Alfred Victor Haslam, died at Northfield, his residence on Duffield Road, Derby.
In 1917 Captain Kenneth Seale Haslam, his youngest son, of the North Midland Howitzer Brigade, was killed in action at Guémappe, east of Arras.
Of the three sons only Eric Haslam survived as well as his two daughters – Edith Hannah Haslam, who still lived at home, and Hilda Annie Ham, wife of the Rev Herbert Ham, Vicar of Wirksworth and later Provost of Derby Cathedral.
His wife, Lady Haslam, died in March 1924 at Breadsall Priory.
Sir Alfred Haslam had been far from well but rallied sufficiently to continue his business affairs. He still visited his factory every day and travelled the country for meetings.
It was on such matters that he travelled to London in January 1927. He was staying at the Midland Grand St Pancras Hotel and on the night of January 12 complained of feeling unwell. He retired to his room with orders for a hotel servant to wake him early next morning. After receiving no response to his knock the servant entered the room and found Sir Alfred dead in bed.
His estate amounted to £1,064,393 after estate duty of £288,691 had already been paid. Newspapers of the day took great delight in calling him the ‘millionaire businessman’.
Both Sir Alfred and Lady Haslam were buried at Morley. The Breadsall Priory estate was left to Alfred’s second son, Captain Eric Seale Haslam, who was 41-years-old, and his houses on Duffield Road were given to his daughters.
Eric Seale Haslam (1886-1967)
“Sitting in my library, watching the herd of cows making their way across the park is one of the joys of my life.” (Captain Eric Seale Haslam)
Eric Seale Haslam was born in 1886 and educated at Haileybury College in Hertfordshire. He later trained to be an engineer at the Rhos Prepatory School in Colwyn Bay.
During the First World War he served with the Territorial Artillery, and was wounded at Loos in 1915. He returned to action but was invalided out of France following a serious railway accident in 1916. Just a year later his younger brother, Kenneth Haslam, was killed in action.
Eric Seale Haslam had joined the family business and became chairman, choosing to rename the company as the Derby Pure Ice and Cold Storage Co Ltd*.
A freemason with the Tyrioan Lodge he was also on the board of the Derby Canal Company and a manager at the Derby Savings Bank. Outside of his business interests he was a keen agriculturalist being the president of the Derby and District Milk Recording Society and the West Hallam Ploughing Association. He was later appointed a magistrate for Derbyshire and became High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1937.¹º
The story of Eric Seale Haslam at Breadsall Priory might also be the story of his sister, Edith Hannah Haslam. She remained at Breadsall following the death of her father and appeared to live happily alongside her brother. While Eric was the person safeguarding the finances it was Edith who became the public figure.
She was known throughout the county for her generosity. In 1927 she opened the St Christopher’s Home for Wayfaring Women at North Parade, in Derby. She attended Breadsall Church and was a committee member of the Queen Victoria Memorial Home of Rest. Edith also championed the conversion of the St Alkmund’s old burial ground into a rest garden and playground for children.¹¹
She later wrote a book, The Garden with Two Keys, published by the Oxford University Press. It was in the form of weekly letters, originally written to her god-daughter, June. The little girl had been so delighted that Edith thought other children might care for the letters too. She also designed a model garden as a companion to the book.¹²
One interest that brother and sister shared at Breadsall Priory was the gardens. Both lavished attention to them and they were regularly opened in aid of charity. They were later enhanced with a programme of tree planting. A visitor to Breadsall Priory in 1938 wrote of the “air of comfortable well-being… the well-kept lawns and gardens… everything’s in harmony.”
In June 1932 the columnist of the Derby – and Joan feature in the Derby Daily Telegraph made observations of her visit:-
“I went over to Breadsall Priory and , after tea with Miss Edith Haslam, Mr Eric Haslam, her brother, and Sister Ward of the St Christopher’s Home for Wayfaring Women, was taken to look at the terrace, rock garden and stream.
“There are some grounds which never give a caller the pleasure occasioned by the first visit, but those belonging to Breadsall priory have the knack of making a greater appeal every time they are seen.
“A flag path had to be treated carefully because of the aubrietas which grew in every crevice. In every shade of purple they were exquisite.
“On being advised to look the way I had come, one of the prettiest garden pictures met the gaze. Flowers, bushes and trees hugged the line of the rivulet and, in the distance, a flame coloured azalea added just the right touch.”
Nick Redman states that the tall stair turret and four bartizans on top of the tower were removed at the beginning of the Second World War. This was to avoid Luftwaffe bombers using Breadsall Priory as a landmark as they headed towards the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby where Spitfire engines were made. The drawing room was also used by the Derbyshire Children’s Hospital as a convalescent ward. During this period Eric Haslam served as a Special Constable around Derby.
The war also unearthed another one of Breadsall’s secrets. While excavating to build an air raid shelter a 13th century doorway was discovered from the old priory. This was later restored and is visible today. Further excavations also revealed part of a lower floor level with drains that turned out to be the canon’s washing area, fragments of the old priory walls and the remains of the bake-oven.
Redman also says that during a fire in one of the outbuildings in 1947, water was used from the ornamental lake to put it out. The following year the lake developed a leak and emptied gradually filling with bushes and small trees until restored in the 1970s.
Edith Haslam died in December 1941. She left a will of £52,611 but it was the contents of the will that summed up her generosity.
£5,000 was given to her nephew, Christopher Haslam Dillon Ham, with £2,000 each to Eric and her sister Hilda Ham. Edith gave £1,000 each to Gwendoline Peach and May Ward. She left St Christopher’s House to Hilda, £200 was given to St Alkmund’s Garden and £500 each to Derby Hospital for Sick Children, the Victoria Home of Rest and the Mission of Lepers in Covent Garden. Edith also gave £100 each to her maids of three years’ service.
It was later revealed that Edith had offered a house at 125 Osmaston Road, Derby, to become the Derby Hostel for Lads (which opened in 1942). This property had originally been where she had helped to found the St Michael’s Hostel for Girls in 1937.¹³
Eric Haslam married in November 1943. His bride was Norah Apphia Woodroffe, the younger daughter of the late G.F. Woodroffe of Wimbledon and Mrs Woodroffe of Hillesley House, near Wooton-on-the-Edge, Gloucestershire. The wedding took place at St Mary’s Church in Wimbledon.¹⁴
Eric Haslam, long retired and calling himself a ‘farmer’, died of cancer in 1967 and was buried at St Matthew’s Church at Morley.
His widow, Norah, lived alone before moving to a new house, Priory Chase, built-in one of the quarries near the entrance lodge. She lived here until her death in 1988.
There was a sale of surplus contents in May 1970 but the main house was unoccupied. It was a target for thieves and the garden and grounds slowly became overgrown and the drive rutted. For a house that once prided itself in its lovely gardens it was a sad demise.
Finally, in late 1970, the Breadsall Estate was put up for sale. It included the house and its grounds that had now been extended to 828 acres.
Charles Arthur Richard Harpur-Crewe (1917-1981)
Breadsall Priory was bought by Charles Harpur-Crewe, whose family already owned much of the land around it. Charles (born Jenney) was the grandson of Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe, the last baronet of Calke Abbey in Derbyshire. The Calke Abbey estate had passed down the female line until Charles (now called Harpur-Crewe) inherited it in 1949.
The Harpur-Crewe’s estate holdings were very large; apart from Calke abbey and the thousand or so acres of parkland immediately adjoining it, they had some 9,000 acres of land in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire, for the most part let to agricultural tenants, and also about 3,000 acres of moorland in the Staffordshire Peak District.
Charles Harpur-Crewe was unmarried, shy, retiring and had made Calke Abbey one of the most impenetrable country houses in England. He had very little to do with other Derbyshire landowners and preferred to converse with his tenant farmers. In 1961 he served as High Sheriff of Derbyshire and was a hereditary governor of Repton School, a member of South Derbyshire District Council and Chairman of the local Conservative Party.¹⁵
Patrick O’Connor, a jockey who rode horses for Charles’ younger brother, Henry Harpur-Crewe, described a meeting with Charles Harpur-Crewe in 1981:-
“First impressions of Harpur-Crewe certainly didn’t fit the image of what one would expect of an aristocrat, owner of large tracts of land and former Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire. He was untidily dressed and had an unfriendly look in his eye that had probably been honed to intimidating perfection dealing with tradesmen and troublesome employees on his estate.”¹⁶
Harpur-Crewe probably wanted Breadsall Priory for its land rather than the house. The purchase came with uncertainty and he wrestled for most of his life with large death duties and had little or no money to spend.
In September 1971 David Cox, a hotel owner and property developer, visited Breadsall Priory while it lay empty. He wrote:-
“The Priory’s a superb old building and it’s ideal for the purpose I’ve got in mind. I want people to be able to go there for golf, swimming, squash, all sorts of recreational purposes, and just relax in a good club atmosphere. When it’s finished there won’t be anything like it in the country.”
It is likely that David Cox’s approach to Charles Harpur-Crewe was a difficult and complicated affair. We know that Harpur-Crewe was a stubborn man and planning and legal delays meant it wasn’t until October 1974 that permission was finally granted. Cox signed a long lease to convert Breadsall Priory into a country house hotel and golf complex.
Cox set about refurbishing the sad and empty house. The dining room was turned into the Elizabethan Restaurant and Rothwell’s organ was dismantled to make way for the new hotel reception. The Billiard Room became the Oak Room and the Drawing Room was renamed the Wedgewood Room.
A bar, called the Monk’s Bar, was built over the canon’s old washing area, and the 13th century doorway, discovered by Eric Haslam, was made a feature of the room. Cox created 17 bedrooms upstairs and opened for business in May 1976.
Alongside the hotel development, a new golf course was created within the parkland. The course, enhanced with Cumberland turf, was designed by David Cox, John Flanders and Richard Lambert.
The Home Farm building was converted into a club house and in 1977 the Breadsall Priory Golf and Country Club was officially opened.
The gardens, once the pride and joy of the Haslam family, were cleared and restored and the ornamental lake put back in working order.
Charles Harpur-Crewe died in 1981 and inheritance tax problems enforced the sale of the Breadsall Priory estate.
David Cox was able to buy it outright while Calke Abbey passed to the National Trust in 1985.
In 1986 David Cox was approached by Country Club Hotels, a subsidiary of Whitbread PLC, about buying Breadsall Priory. Negotiations over the sale lasted two years and a deal wasn’t concluded until January 1988.
Whitbread and the Marriott Hotel
The purchase by Whitbread marked a significant change for the house. Their first priority was to increase the number of bedrooms to 92 by constructing a new bedroom block. A leisure complex was also added using old farm buildings and a swimming pool was created in place of the old farmyard.
More importantly a restoration programme was carried out on the old house and a new kitchen block was built alongside.
The golf facilities were also improved with the creation of the Moorland course and a new pavilion which opened in 1992.
Breadsall Priory Hotel Golf and Country Club opened in 1990.
In 1996 Whitbread obtained the franchise rights for the Marriott name in Great Britain and the hotel was rebranded as the Marriott Breadsall Hotel and Country Club.
A new accommodation block, with 24 bedrooms, was built in 1997.
As a salute to its former owners a number of rooms were renamed to become the Haslam, Darwin and Morley Rooms.
Whitbread sold its portfolio of 46 Marriott hotels to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 2006. The deal, reported to be £954m, allowed the Marriott Corporation to operate the hotels on behalf of the new owner.
RBS eventually sold the chain to the British Virgin Islands-based Professional Ventures Corporation (PVC) for £1.1bn in 2007.
In 2008 Marriott refurbished the historic meeting rooms, leisure complex, restaurant and golf facilities at Breadsall Priory. However, there were still troubled times ahead.
In 2011 it was reported that the Marriott hotels chain had been placed in administrative receivership after PVC failed to make loan repayments.
RBS, the majority lender on the debt, regained control of the property portfolio and eventually sold the chain, including Breadsall Priory, to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) for £640m in 2013.
Breadsall Priory is now regarded as the oldest Marriott hotel in the world.
References:- The process of writing this post has been made considerably easier due to the chronology of events and extensive research already carried out by Nick Redman . An excellent account of its evolution is included in his book An Illustrated History of Breadsall Priory (2009) which proved invaluable and is quoted often. ¹Aris’s Birmingham Gazette (23 May 1842) ²Derby Mercury (28 Mar 1860) ³White Ironstone Notes (Winter 2011) ⁴Derby Daily Telegraph (8 Jun 1883) ⁵Kent and Sussex Courier (30 Jul 1920) ⁶Pall Mall Gazette (2 Feb 1897) ⁷Derby Daily Telegraph (13 Jan 1927) ⁸National Archives ⁹Derby Daily Telegraph (20 Aug 1914) ¹ºDerby Daily Telegraph (18 Mar 1937) ¹¹Derby Daily Telegraph (30 Apr 1932) ¹²Derby Daily Telegraph (6 May 1936) ¹³Derby Daily Telegraph (1 Jul 1942)/Derby Daily Telegraph (3 Sep 1942) ¹⁴Derby Daily Telegraph (6 Oct 1943)/Derby Daily Telegraph (19 Nov 1943) ¹⁵Calke Abbey (Harold Colvin). National Trust 1989 ¹⁶Glorious Obsessions of Calke Abbey (Patrick O’Connor) Patrick O’Connor 2013
Notes:- *Eric Seale Haslam, continued in the family business, renamed the Derby Pure Ice and Cold Storage Company. In 1928, the Haslam Foundry Company was taken over by the electrical engineers Newton Brothers Ltd who changed its name, in 1935, to Newton Brothers Ltd. But the refrigeration side was bought in 1935 by L Sterne & Company Ltd of Glasgow who had been making refrigeration machinery since about 1882.
Louis Sterne died in 1953; the company continuing in the refrigeration business until it virtually ceased trading in 1961, being acquired by Prestcold Ltd, owned by British Leyland, in 1968. The Sterne name was phased out in 1971. The name ‘Derby Pure Ice and Cold Storage Company’ was liquidated in 1976.
Stone; coarse ashlar of carboniferous limestone from Kniveton and dressings of Ashover Grit from Stanton Moor. Roof: flat and slate. An irregular house of massive appearance in the neo-Tudor genre. There was a 150ft tower in army barracks style, a second smaller campanile, mullioned and transomed windows and a spacious palm house loggia. The Derbyshire Country House (Maxwell Craven and Michael Stanley)
There is usually limited information available when writing about a demolished house. However, with Osmaston Manor it was different. This house threw up different challenges. When researching the house and its people the amount of material proved almost overwhelming. The outcome was one of the longest pieces I have written but as the story took shape the eventual outcome was inevitable.
If Osmaston Manor had survived it would now be considered one of Derbyshire’s finest houses. Alas, for this country house, it suffered highs and lows, the result of ‘boom and bust’ circumstances, which in turn created a love-hate relationship for its owners.
Francis Wright (1806-1873) Osmaston Manor was built for Francis Wright (1806-1873) who inherited the estate from his mother’s family (she was a daughter of Francis Marcus Beresford of Compton House, Ashbourne and Osmaston). The Osmaston estate had originally belonged to the Meynell family of Bradley.
The Wright family were Nottingham bankers but made their fortune from iron and coal production. Francis Wright was the head of the Butterley Iron and Coal Company from 1830 until 1873. When he became senior partner the company was valued at £30,000 and to underline its success its assets amounted to £436,000 by 1858¹ He was also connected to Codnor Park and several other large collieries in Derbyshire.
According to the Sheffield Independent he might have been termed a Christian in the broadest sense of the term. He was a supporter of the Church Missionary Society, the Church Colonial Aid Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. In his time he would build a new church, new schools and properties at Osmaston and become a benefactor of the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary². His biggest achievement was his involvement in the foundation of the Trent College, a public boarding school for boys in Long Eaton.
Wright had married his cousin Selina (1806-1888), the daughter of Sir Henry FitzHerbert of Tissington Hall, in 1830. They made their home at Lenton Hall in Nottinghamshire but saw the land at Osmaston as their future.
Looking to build a new home worthy of his position Wright appointed Henry Isaac Stevens (1806-1873) of Derby to oversee the work. The architect was a brave choice as Stevens’ previous work had mainly been church designs but it would become his greatest commission. The house was built by Messrs. Ford and Co of Derby and was completed in 1849 in Victorian Tudor style with more than a passing resemblance to Tissington Hall.
Osmaston Manor had 70 rooms, a bake-house, wash-house as well as a brew-house. It had a subterranean railway, hot-air central heating and a central tunnel carried smoke from the house to a communal garden chimney, 150 feet high in Italianate style¹. The house was 330 feet long and a height of 192 feet. The terraces covered 4 acres of ground.
It was set within 3,500 acres of parkland with lakes and trees. Sir Joseph Paxton is believed to have advised on the layout of the park.
Francis Wright would live at Osmaston Manor until his death from bronchitis, aged 66, in 1873. He left 5 sons and 5 daughters – the oldest of which was John Wright of Eldensley House² who inherited his father’s estates. Another son, Francis Beresford Wright, lived at Aldercar Hall.
While Osmaston Manor enjoyed the trappings of success under Francis Wright the same could not be said under the guardianship of John Wright.
John Wright (Osmaston) (1831-1901) John Wright (1831-1901) had been married twice. He married Emily Sophia Plumptre in 1853 and, following her death, was wedded to Florence Mary Rice in 1861. In his lifetime he would become Deputy Lieutenant of Derbyshire and Justice of the Peace for Staffordshire and Derbyshire.
Wright was eager to build upon his father’s legacy and just six months after his death had negotiated the purchase of the Old Dalby Estate in Lincolnshire for £19,100. The sale included Old Dalby Hall with its beautiful grounds and gardens and 343 acres of land. A month later he offered the property for lease ‘on the border of the great Vale of Belvoir, within easy access to all the meets of the Quorn and Belvoir Hunt’.³
The following year, in 1874, he was entangled in a legal battle concerning the purchase of Dearham Colliery in County Durham. Wright believed he had bought the colliery through an intermediary for £90,000 only to find that the purchase had actually cost just £60,000. The aggrieved Wright initiated criminal proceedings against a Mr Henry Osborne O’Hagan (who had bought the colliery), Mr Isaac Armstrong, Mr James Saunders, the Cumberland Union Banking Company, the London and Provincial Bank and the London and Liverpool Financial Association, all of whom he believed implicated in the fraud. In the end only O’Hagan and Saunders were tried at the Central Criminal Court where the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.
It was a harsh lesson for John Wright and, with large estates to support, suggests the family wealth was not what it was. Something needed to be done and the first signs of change came when John Wright rejected his patronymic and changed his name to John Osmaston in 1876. He stated that there were several magistrates of the same name in Derbyshire⁴ but it is more likely he had a long term plan.
In 1883 it was announced in a London newspaper that the estates of the late Francis Wright at Osmaston, Shirley and Ednaston, in Derbyshire, and at Langar and Barnston, in Nottinghamshire, were to be sold at auction⁵. Victorian property owners had begun to realise that there was a natural decline in property values if they were not carefully attended to. To ensure that wealth remained for future generations many ‘impoverished’ landowners resorted to the Settled Estates Act which effectively set them free of unwanted and unsustainable properties. Income raised from the sale could then be used for them to live in relative comfort for the rest of their lives.
The Osmaston Manor Estate, comprising 3,400 acres, with a rent roll of £6,000 per annum, failed to sell at the August auction. The main problem was Osmaston Manor which was thought to be out of proportion to the value of the property and could not be kept up in adequate style on less than at least twice the rental of the Derbyshire and Nottingham estates put together⁶.
Despite its failure to sell at auction there were interested parties willing to take on the financial burden of Osmaston Manor.
In November 1883 it was reported that the estate had been bought by Sir Samuel Wilson (1832-1895) who had made his fortune by sheep farming in Australia. On returning to England he had leased Hughenden Manor from Lord Beaconsfield and his vast fortune was more than enough to cover the upkeep of Osmaston Manor.
Wilson was understood to have paid £206,000 for the Osmaston Manor Estate, including the entire contents of the house, with the exception of the pictures. This was thought to be a low price for such fine estate with many experts stating it was worth at least £25,000 more than that⁷. At the time of the sale it was estimated that Francis Wright and John Osmaston had spent close on £250,000 to build and upgrade the house and grounds.
However, Sir Samuel Wilson was to be frustrated and the potential sale didn’t receive the necessary consent or ratification. The likelihood was that the sale didn’t meet the necessary formalities specified in Lord Cairns’ Settled Estates Act, under the enabling powers of which alone the property could only be sold.
No sooner had the sale fallen through when, just twelve hours later, Sir Andrew Barclay Walker stepped in to buy Osmaston Manor. The deal was completed in January 1884 with the Liverpool businessman paying £206,500 for the mansion, including the furniture and contents, excepting the pictures⁸.
Before John Osmaston could sever his ties he had the final task of disposing of the entire collection of valuable paintings from Osmaston Manor.
The collection, enriched with bronzes and statutory, had been brought together by Francis Wright and his son and was said to have cost £150,000. The auction took place at the Lecture Hall at Wardwick, Derby, in March 1884. Commentators of the day questioned why so extensive a collection had not been sent to the rooms of Christie, Manson and Co in London.
The auction catalogue claimed that two well-known works were included in the sale. These were the ‘Monna Lizza’ by Leonardo da Vinci, and ‘The Magdalen’, by Murillo, purchased direct from the Queen of Spain.
Also included were ‘The Annunciation’ by P.P. Rubens; ‘The Fight for the Standard’, the engraved work by R. Ansdell, R.A.; ‘A River Scene’ by Constable, R.A.; three grand works by J.M.W. Turner⁹.
The Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald gave a word of caution:
“Old masters are dubious things to buy from an auctioneer unless he knows something about art. It is difficult, above all things, to estimate the real value of works by the old masters. Experienced picture-buyers sometimes fall into pit-falls ruinously expensive, victimized by false work which has the irresistible charm of plenty of brown varnish employed by scientific swindlers, who, by their clever counterfeits obtain rashly artificial prices.”
On the day of the auction John Osmaston answered his critics by stating he had offered the pictures in Derby because he thought many of his friends in the country would be glad of an opportunity of purchasing some of them. Mr Huggins, the auctioneer, said that one of the conditions of the sale was that he could not guarantee the authenticity of any of the lots and that considerable doubt was cast upon their genuineness¹º.
In the end the bidders were unconvinced. Proceeds from the entire auction raised a paltry £7,000 – ‘The Magdalen’ sold for 1,900 guineas and the ‘Monna Lizza’ scraped a mere 50 guineas!
So ended John Osmaston’s shorts and ill-fated tenure at Osmaston Manor. We can only speculate as to his character and business acumen but evidence suggests he spent far more than he could afford and the only solution was to dispose of the estates.
John Osmaston, lighter in pocket, was now free to move to another country house, Hawkhurst Court, Billingshurst, in West Sussex. In time he would become a J.P. for Sussex and would remain there until his death, aged 70, in 1901. At the time of his death his estate was sworn at £2,826¹¹. By sharp contrast his father, Francis Wright, had left personal estate worth £700,000. His mother, Selina Wright, would live in the Dower House at Yeldersley Hall and died in 1889.
Andrew Barclay Walker (1824-1893) Andrew Barclay Walker was the second son of Peter Walker of Auchingflower who had been the head of the Fort Brewery in Ayr. His father had removed to Liverpool and after completing his education at Ayr Academy and the Liverpool Institute Andrew Walker was taken into partnership in his father’s brewing business.
In the course of his early career it is told that, at one time, becoming aware that foreign brandy would probably become scarce wowing to the failure of crops, he at once applied himself to buying up all the brandy that he could get control of. His anticipations proved accurate and he made a sum of money¹³.
In 1853 he had married Eliza, the daughter of John Reid, of Limekilns, Fifeshire.
Walker had served as a magistrate for Ayrshire and sometime afterwards was made a magistrate for the county of Lancashire. His chief residence was at Gateacre Grange, Liverpool, and joining the municipality had risen to the position of alderman.
He had first been elected Lord Mayor in 1873, and the day after his appointment he had announced his intention of presenting the city with an art gallery at a cost of £20,000. For many years he had been in the habit of gathering numbers of poor men and women about him to enjoy a Christmas treat, which he provided for them in Toxteth.
A highlight of his career was a visit by the Duke of Edinburgh to lay the foundation stone at the Walker Art Gallery. As it was approaching its completion in 1876 the council thought it right that Walker be re-elected as Lord Mayor. To celebrate he presented the council with a handsome jewelled badge to be worn by future mayors on state occasions.
Walker had spent a number of years cruising with Lady Walker who had been suffering a lingering illness. She died in 1882, leaving behind her six sons and two daughters, the eldest being Peter Carlaw Walker (1854-1915).
By the time Andrew Walker purchased Osmaston Manor he was the head of Peter Walker and Sons and a very wealthy man†. It was understood he owned half the public houses in Liverpool. His main brewery was at Warrington with a second one added at Burton-on-Trent. Walker was also the proprietor of coal mines in South Wales.
In the same year the Liverpool Corporation built an extension to the art gallery, and Walker generously covered the cost of £12,000.
In 1885 he was awarded a baronetcy and would become known as Baronet Walker of Gateacre in the County of Lancaster. He was also appointed Deputy Leiutenant of the same county.
A reporter from the Liverpool Mercury visited Osmaston Manor in June 1887 and described the house and the popularity of its new owner:-
‘The entrance hall is a spacious and pleasant chamber, as are the principal rooms, but the smoke room is evidently much appreciated. Though its appointments are good, and its panelled ceiling of timber very fine, it has an essentially cosy appearance. Like the rest of the house, it is lit with the electric light. I found Mr Richard Keene, the well-known photographer of Derby, taking a variety of views of the mansion and its surroundings. For many years Sir Andrew Walker had known Sir Henry Wilmot, by whose advice, rumour has it, he bought Osmaston Manor. Be that it may, ever since that never to be forgotten garden party, to which the whole county was invited for Sir Andrew by Lady Wilmot, the popularity of its owner has gone on increasing with all classes. Only at the last county ball at Derby the guests were equally astonished and delighted at the sumptuousness of the supper and the excellence of the wines, and it only accidentally oozed out that the supper was the generous gift of Sir Andrew. He is a munificent subscriber, I heard, to all charitable and religious agencies for good, but withal he gives with discretion. He is a familiar presence at county gatherings, and with the middles classes and poor he has made his name a household world no less than with the county gentry’.
In October 1887 he married for a second time. His bride was Maude, the second daughter of Mr Haughton Charles Okeover, a family of very old standing and who had held the lordship of Okeover for over 700 years. Maude had served Queen Victoria in the capacity of Maid of Honour and was rewarded with several wedding presents including a beautiful diamond, ruby and pearl brooch, with a piece of hair and a photograph of her majesty in a silver frame.
Sir Andrew Walker made a number of improvements at Osmaston Manor. Kelly’s Directory 1891 described it as ‘a noble mansion, of dark blue limestone, with dressings of gritstone, situated on an eminence commanding extensive views of the picturesque scenery around, and is surrounded by large and well-kept pleasure grounds covering an area of about 35 acres ; considerable improvements have been made within the last few years, and in 1887 a billiard room was added : there are four lakes with islands within a short distance of the manor frequented by flocks of wild fowl.’
Sir Andrew Walker was a private man but an extremely generous one. He had contributed £1,000 towards the rebuilding of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, of which he served as president in 1886. He also sat on the committees of the Derbyshire Agricultural Society and Derby Charity Organisation Society as well as becoming vice-president of Derbyshire County Cricket Club. He was also vice-president of the Derbyshire Natural History and Archaeology Society, a patron of the Derby Burns’ Club, and a director of Francis Wright’s Trent College.
While Sir Andrew was a popular and kindly landlord his stay at Osmaston Manor was relatively short. He had suffered ill-health and even his wedding to Maude Okeover had to be delayed several months while he recuperated on his yacht and a visit to Scotland¹².
During early 1892 he was confined to his room at Gateacre Grange for several weeks with a severe illness. It was a sickness he would never recover from and he died in February leaving estate worth £2,876,781¹⁴.
Walker left the Osmaston estate, together with its contents,as well as the Belle Vue estates and adjoining property at Little Woolton, near Liverpool, to his eldest son, Peter Carlaw Walker¹⁴.
Gateacre Grange was left to another son, William Hall Walker, and another property, The Knoll, at Barton-under-Needlewood, to John Reid Walker¹⁴.
In 1895 Lady Maude Walker would marry Lort Phillips, of Lawrenny Park, Pembrokeshire, Master of the Pembroke Hounds.
Sir Peter Carlaw Walker (1854-1915) Sir Peter Carlaw Walker, 2nd Baronet, was just 38-years-old when he inherited Osmaston Manor. With the huge burden of maintaining his father’s popularity he wasted no time taking on Sir Andrew’s affairs.
As the head of the Walker and Sons he looked to expand its portfolio of public houses. In 1894 he formed a property company for the purpose of opening new sites and to carry on the business of brewers, maltsters, ale, beer, porter and corn merchants¹⁵.
Unlike his father he had been educated at home, proceeding to neither public school nor university. Instead he had developed a prowess at sport. Big game fell to his rifle in Norway, Ceylon, Assam, Colorado, Wyoming and British Columbia. He was also a keen sailor, being a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes and spending six months in the south seas sailing around in a 30-ton coasting schooner. Walker was a strong supporter of the National Hunt and later appointed the trainer, Johnny Latham, to oversee his jumpers.
His business interests would be divided between Derbyshire and Lancashire. He was a Deputy Leiutenant and Justice of the Peace for Derbyshire, and a Deputy Lieutenant for Lancashire, of which county he was also High Sheriff in 1896-7. Although a staunch unionist he had little time for politics, nor indeed public life in general. He would be remembered as a generous landowner and country gentleman, an ardent follower of the hounds, a consistent patron of the turf, and perhaps above all as a keen officer in the auxiliary forces seeing out 35 years of service in the Lancashire Yeomanry and Derbyshire Yeomanry. He would reach the rank of Colonel in 1906 before handing over to Lord Henry Bentick, in 1912.
He was President of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary in 1903 and presented the institution with a complete Finsen light apparatus for the treatment of Lupus. He also invited the inmates of the Liverpool Seamen’s Orphanage to Osmaston Manor every year.
One of Peter Walker’s most interesting innovations at Osmaston Manor was a selection of Wyoming elk, which he purchased during one of his expeditions to the ‘Wild West’.
In 1895 Peter Walker gave away his stepmother at her wedding to Lort Phillips which took place at St. Peter’s Church in Eaton Square.
There was no doubt that the bond between Walker and his stepmother was close. Where similar relationships had failed it was through Maude Okeover that Peter Walker met his future wife. This turned out to be Ethel Blanche Okeover, his stepmother’s younger sister (d.1935), and the new Lady Walker of Osmaston Manor.
The wedding took place at Okeover Church in May 1899. Peter Walker’ was 44-years-old and his best man was Mr Nugent Howard of Broughton Hall at Malpas. It was an elaborate affair with the couple leaving Ashbourne by train for London en route to Paris, where their honeymoon was spent
Ethel Blanche Okeover, the step-daughter-in-law to her own sister, proved to be an able marriage partner. She became actively involved with the Derbyshire Children’s Hospital and was vice-president of the Derbyshire Red Cross Society. She also owned a number of National Hunt horses and raced under the name of Mr Shirley Park, taking the title from a neighbouring Walker estate.
In 1900 the couple celebrated the birth of a daughter, Enid Walker (1900-1988), who would marry Count Cosmo Diodono de Bosdari in 1928 but it would end in divorce in 1949. She later remarried to Bernard H. Lofts-Constable in 1958.
Despite his liking for privacy Peter Walker opened the gardens at Osmaston Manor to the general public for the first time in the summer of 1900. It was the start of an annual event that lasted many years with entry charges donated to worthy causes. The occasion was always a highlight of the calendar with specially arranged daytrips from Nottingham and Derby.
In November 1902 Sir Peter and Lady Walker celebrated the birth of their son and heir.
Ian Peter Andrew Monro Walker (1902-1982) was christened at Osmaston Church with the Countess of Kingston acting as godmother¹⁷. While Ian Walker enjoyed a charmed childhood his life would change dramatically in 1915.
His father had been suffering from internal ailments for some time before entering a London nursing home in September 1915. The baronet underwent an operation and recovered sufficiently to be moved to Osmaston Manor. However, once settled in his own bed he suffered a relapse and died aged 61. On his death he left unsettled estate of £255,096 with net personlty £174,612.
At the age of 13 Ian Monro Walker inherited the Osmaston Manor estate along with the death duties associated with it.
Ian Peter Andrew Monro Walker (1902-1982) Ian Walker fell into his father’s mould with a love for the outdoors. Under the watchful eye of his mother he shouldered the responsibilities as the 3rd Baronet at Osmaston Manor.
He marked his coming of age with the purchase of the Glen Avon deer forest in Banffshire from the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. The estate comprised 40,000.acres producing about 90 stags a season as well as grouse, shooting and fishing¹⁸
His biggest contribution to Osmaston Manor was the creation of a polo ground within the grounds along with a riding school built for the purpose of housing polo ponies. The annual polo weeks would prove to be one of Derbyshire’s principal summer attractions. He became a prominent breeder of polo ponies and Ayrshire cattle.
While enjoying his sporting pursuits the young baronet showed expertise running estate affairs. In 1931, aged 29, he formed a new unlimited company, the Shirley Park Estate Company, ‘to acquire, manage certain estates in Derbyshire, and to purchase certain chief rents, to construct, improve, and alter roads, railways, watercourses, parks and streets’¹⁹
This measure of turning the estate into a company was designed to ease the burden of heavy taxation and one that the Duke of Devonshire and Duke of Bedford had already adopted.
The following year Ian Walker bought Beresford Dale for £15,500, not for the Shirley Park Estate Company, but out of his personal wealth. The Dale, one of Derbyshire’s beauty spots, was well known for its excellent fishing and came with 576 acres.
In 1935, the person who had protected his childhood from the pressure of baronetcy died. Lady Ethel Blanche Walker died at Osmaston Manor after a short illness.
By now it was evident that Osmaston Manor and its estates were becoming a millstone. It was a problem shared with many large houses and, in 1937, the Derby Daily Telegraph lamented the loss of country houses and praised the county’s remaining properties:-
“It is fortunate that very few Derbyshire estates have shared the tragic fate of Drakelow Hall, its glories consigned to the housebreaker and timber merchant. Keddleston Hall, Osmaston Manor, Foremarke Hall, and, of course, Chatsworth and Haddon, remain unsullied by modern changes²º”
For one of these houses the future was not certain at all.
Sir Ian Walker married Dorothy Elizabeth Heber-Percy (1913-2005) of Guy’s Cliffe, Warwick, in June 1938. She was the granddaughter of Lord Algernon Malcolm Arthur Percy, the second son of the 6th Duke of Nortumberland, and a former chairman of Warwickshire County Council. The best man was Ralph Curzon²¹.
Despite the pressures of running a large country estate Sir Ian Walker remained a popular landlord. He had built new cottages and a village hall in Osmaston with traditional thatched roof and half-timbered style.
The outbreak of World War Two saw Osmaston Manor handed over to the Red Cross to attend wounded soldiers. It also coincided with the birth of the couple’s first child, Elizabeth Anne Walker, born in 1940. She would be joined by Jane Katherine Walker (1942-2012) and Captain Sir Peter Ralph Leopold Walker (1947-2003). King Leopold of Belguim was one of Peter’s godparents explaining the use of his name for the future 4th Baronet.
In 1942 Sir Ian Walker purchased the estates of Slains, including the picturesque village of Collieston and the historic Old Slains Castle. The estate, bordering on the rugged Aberdeenshire coast, extended to 8,000 acres, and included 54 farms and crofts²².
As second-in command of the Derbyshire Yeomanry he saw active service throughout the North African campaign and eventually took over as commanding officer in 1944. The following year he was awarded the D.S.O. ‘for distinguished service’ in Italy.
The end of the war highlighted the many problems facing many landowners. In 1946 Sir Ian Walker announced his intention to leave Osmaston Manor and take up residence at Okeover Hall which had recently come into his possession. He told the Derby Daily Telegraph that the decision was “entirely due to heavy taxation.”
A string of would-be purchasers looked around Osmaston Manor but the house was not officially on the market. The most viable plan was to convert the manor into a girls’ school while retaining the estate. However, his departure depended on essential repairs being completed at Okeover Hall. In 1947 the Shirley Park Estate Company auctioned Yeldersley Hall further reducing their assets.
The move away was a prolonged affair with Sir Ian Walker still associated with Osmaston Manor. According to Giles Worsley in ‘England’s Lost Houses’ (2002) Sir Ian Walker didn’t actually inherit the Okeover estate until 1955 and didn’t actually move there until 1962. This is perfectly viable and explains his decision to obtain a Royal licence to change the family name to Walker-Okeover in 1956. The title befitted his role as Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire which he had assumed in 1951
However, with the future of Osmaston Manor seemingly doomed, he continued to develop his property portfolio elsewhere. In 1948 he had set up a new company, along with Lady Dorothy, called The Walker Scottish Estates Co, based at the House of Glenmuick in Ballatar, with the purpose of running estates in Aberdeen and Angus²³.
By this time Osmaston Manor was a problem that would not go away. With little in terms of maintenance the house was left to decay and the inevitable occurred in 1965 when the Walker-Okeovers made the irrevocable decision to demolish the house. It was raised to the ground but not before the neo-Tudor main staircase was transferred to Wootton Lodge in Staffordshire²⁴
Sir Ian Walker-Okeover died in 1982, aged 79, and Lady Dorothy died in 2005 reaching the grand old age of 91.
The Osmaston Estate is still owned by the Walker-Okeover family as well as the House of Glenmuick, Ballatar, in Aberdeenshire. It is managed by Sir Andrew Peter Monro Walker-Okeover, 5th Bt (b.1978), and Lady Philippa Walker-Okeover.
The foundations of Osmaston Manor still exist and the grassed terraces, ponds, stone steps and balustrades have been restored. Today it is called Osmaston Park and serves as a wedding venue where elaborate marquees stand on the site of Henry Stevens’ now forgotten masterpiece.
By coincidence the original plans for Osmaston Manor have recently been discovered by Mark Smith of Derbyshire Records Office:-
“It happens this way in archives sometimes. One minute, you are moving a roll of plans from one shelf to another, and carefully keeping a record of its new location; the next, you are rediscovering some long-lost treasure.
“It was in 1978 that we acquired collection D1849, the archives of the Osmaston Estate. The collection includes rent books, tenancy papers, some plans and photographs, and family papers of the Walker family, which acquired Osmaston Manor after the death of Francis Wright (1806-1873). A list for the collection was circulated soon afterwards. However, entry D1849/14 on that list, (“Osmaston Manor plans”) had no descriptive details, and our internal record to say which shelf held the plans said only ‘number not used’.”
The plans are in a poor condition and conservation work will be needed.
References: ¹Bygone Derbyshire
²Sheffield Independent (25 Feb 1873)/Morning Post (25 Feb 1873)
³Morning Post (12 Sep 1873)
⁴Derby Mercury (13 Sep 1876)
⁵Derby Mercury (30 May 1883)
⁶Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (21 Nov 1883)
⁷Derby Mercury (28 Nov 1883)
⁸Sheffield Independent (24 Jan 1884)
⁹Derby Mercury (13 Feb 1884)
¹ºDerby Mercury (19 Mar 1884)
¹¹Sheffield Daily Telegraph (14 Feb 1902)
¹²Sheffield Independent (12 Oct 1887)
¹³Lancaster Gazette (1 Mar 1893)
¹⁴Leeds Mercury (29 Mar 1893)
¹⁵Liverpool Mercury (30 Jul 1894)
¹⁶Lichfield Mercury (2 Jun 1899)
¹⁷Derby Daily Telegraph (19 Feb 1903)
¹⁸Nottingham Evening Post (30 Aug 1923)
¹⁹Derby Daily Telegraph (28 May 1931)
²ºDerby Daily Telegraph (10 Feb 1937)
²¹Derby Daily Telegraph (28 Jun 1938)
²²Aberdeen Journal (11 Apr 1942)
²³Dundee Courier (30 Oct 1948)
²⁴The Derbyshire Country House (Maxwell Craven & Michael Stanley)
†Peter Walker & Son
The original brewery was started by Peter Walker, father of Andrew Walker, at the Fort Brewery in Ayr. Through investors the business expanded to Warrington and Burton on Trent. Andrew Walker took over the business in 1890 and is credited with pioneering many production, distribution and management systems that are still in place within the industry. The group had a chain of pubs around Liverpool and the north west. The company merged with Cairns Brewery in 1921 and the Tetley’s Brewery of Leeds in 1960, to form Tetley Walker.
In 1961 Tetley Walker merged with Ind Coope of Burton and Ansells of Birmingham to become Allied Breweries. This later became Allied Lyons in 1978 following a merger with J Lyons and Co. The business merged with Carlsberg in 1992 to become Carlsberg-Tetley and is now known as Carlsberg UK.
Built: About 1827 with later 19th century additions
Architect: Unknown Owner: National Trust Private apartments
Grade II listed
Ashlar and coursed squared gritstone, with coped gables and moulded kneelers, some with ball finials. Ashlar ridge and sidewall stacks and stone slated roofs. Irregular plan and elevations. (Historic England)
Those people familiar with Derbyshire’s Peak District may be surprised to learn that the Duke of Rutland was once one of the county’s principal landowners. The title is historically linked with the imposing Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire but, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Duke owned large swathes of land in Derbyshire – stretching from Hartington in the south towards the county border with Sheffield in the north. This was the Haddon Estate, named after their country seat at Haddon Hall, near Bakewell. The Manners, to give them their family name, deserted Haddon Hall in 1703 and it was an abandoned medieval manor house.
The Derbyshire countryside still provided temptation for the Duke of Rutland. With thousands of acres of wild moorland at his disposal the area was prime grouse shooting. Purchased in the 1820s, the peerage exploited the riches that the uplands offered. Around 1827, John Henry Manners (1778-1857), 5th Duke of Rutland, wanting to make his shooting parties more comfortable, built a ‘shooting box’, close to the moors, but in the shelter of the Derwent Valley. Longshaw Lodge was ideally placed, with Sheffield just 7 miles north and Chesterfield a similar distance to the east. Haddon Hall, and the market town of Bakewell, lay to the south, while another Manners’ property, the Tudor mansion at Stanton Woodhouse, was within easy reach at Rowlsey.
While the original ‘shooting box’ may have been modest the late nineteenth century additions turned Longshaw Lodge into an elegant aristocratic country house. Nowadays, the appearance is odd in that the irregular building has five different gables and, despite being two-storeys throughout, is of differing heights. Typically made of ashlar and coursed square gritstone it is defined with a tall four-storey square tower at the rear with embattled parapet. Adjacent to the range is a chapel made of regularly coarsed gritstone with ashlar dressings and a stone slate roof. Behind the lodge complex is a former ice house, circular in shape, now dark and empty, and covered with coarse grass.
During the Duke of Rutland’s time the building was offset with fine ornamental gardens and private walks and driveways across the estate. Rhododendrons were planted close to the building to provide flowering as well as cover for game birds. Elsewhere, a series of nine smaller lodges were built to house the Duke’s many gamekeepers.
The Longshaw Moors provided happy hunting grounds. The shooting area was vast – ‘as large as Lambeth, Greenwich and Kensington combined’. Longshaw Lodge would favour visits from visiting aristocrats – the Duke of Devonshire and the Duke of Wellington were guests – and the shooting parties were well tailored. The house had 28 bed and dressing rooms, two bathrooms, a suite of reception rooms and, by the early twentieth century, electric light, a good water supply and central heating.
“The Duke of Rutland has lent his shooting box at Longshaw as a convalescent home for the 3rd Northern General (Sheffield) Base Hospital. It will accommodate about fifteen men and the first batch are going next week.”
During World War 1 the house would play an important role. The Military Base Hospital, operated by the Territorial Force Medical Services in Sheffield, at the Teacher Training College on Ecclesall Road, was under immense pressure with an unremitting stream of sick and wounded soldiers. An appeal was made for overspill amenities and, in February 1915, the Duke of Rutland donated the use of the lodge for convalescing patients. Wounded men would arrive at Sheffield Station before being taken to the Base Hospital. As soon as their health allowed they were moved to Base Hospital Sections. Longshaw’s rural scenery provided a restful setting for those damaged by the war. In time over 60 soldiers, from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, would be accommodated. From here they were allowed to roam the moorland, sail boats on the lake and visit local houses, such as Haddon Hall and Eyam Hall.
Henry John Brinsley Manners (1852-1925), the 8th Duke of Rutland, still visited during the war. He enjoyed the shooting parties but, for many years, rented the estate to Sir Thomas Isaac Birkin (1831-1922), the lace manufacturer, director of the Great Northern Railway and the Mercantile Steamship Company. In her book, ‘The Secret Rooms’, the writer Catherine Bailey reveals letters pertaining to the Duke’s son and heir, John Henry Montagu Manners (1886-1940), who visited Longshaw during hostilities. The timings of his visits offered mysteries that he fought to hide many years later.
By the 1920s the Duke of Rutland estate, like many others, faced a cash crisis. The Duke had rolled over debts incurred when Belvoir Castle was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Confounding matters was the sudden decline in agricultural income and higher taxation imposed after the Great War. In 1920, the 8th Duke of Rutland, was forced to sell 13,000 acres of his beloved Belvoir estate as well as 15,000 acres around Bakewell and Ilkeston. The sales raised £1.5m and much of this was spent on the rebuilding of Haddon Hall which was handed to his heir the following year along with the rest of the Derbyshire estate.
Following the death of the 8thDuke of Rutland, in 1925, the estate faced crippling death duties. The 9th Duke, intent on finishing Haddon Hall, had decisions to make. The restoration of Haddon Hall was consuming money that was not readily available. In March 1927, with the Duke residing at Haddon Hall, he put the whole of the Longshaw Lodge estate up for sale.
The sale, organised by Messrs John Wood & Co of Grosvenor Square, comprised 11, 533 acres, some 18 square miles. The announcement created much excitement but it was thought unlikely that buyers would want such a large estate. It was envisaged that the land would be divided into smaller lots. Details of the sale were complicated but by June the arrangements were complete. The centrepiece of the sale was Longshaw Lodge deemed suitable for conversion for residential purposes as a school, institution or hotel. With this came 747 acres of park like land, woodland and moorland.
The famous sporting moors were listed in separate lots. The largest was Big Moor comprising of 3,111 acres. Also available were the Houndkirk and Burbage Moors, Totley Moor, Clod Hall Moor, Leash Fen Moor, Blacka Moor and Ramsley Moor – in all 6,359 acres. Each came equipped with a Keeper’s Lodge and, according to the advertisements, when shot as a whole produced 3,000 brace of grouse. Also included in the sale were three licensed houses – The Fox House, The Peacock at Owler Bar and The Chequers at Froggatt Edge. Seven small farms were listed as were cottages, quarries and building sites. The auction date was set for Tuesday July 5th, 1927, at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Sheffield.
Though the date was agreed the Duke of Rutland’s agents were busy negotiating private sales. Just days after the announcement there were claims that Sheffield Corporation were showing an interest in one of the lots. The reason for their attention remained secret but the assumption was that Longshaw could satisfy the increasing demand for housing. The sale prospectus had suggested that the area might be suitable for a golf course and building development. The idea was scandalous, if not ridiculous, considering the city was 7 miles away, across the border, in Yorkshire. In fact, Sheffield Corporation were considering Longshaw, and it wasn’t housing they had in mind, but what the land already provided.
Sheffield was a city with an increasing population. The Corporation already supplied 2½ million gallons of water daily and were obligated to supply a further 2 million gallons to outside districts. They had a daily reserve of 7¼ million gallons which was deemed small in comparison with other big cities. The elders were concerned that this reserve would be expended within 15 years as all other sources of supply had been exhausted. The Longshaw Lodge Estate, with its huge moorland and water run-off, provided the solution.
Then, as now, the Sheffield Corporation weren’t cash rich and would need to borrow the £35,000 needed to buy 3,210 acres, covering 5½ square miles. The purchase, 12 of the 48 available lots, would take in Longshaw Lodge and 747 acres, overlooking the heather and crags of Hathersage Moor and the summits of Higgar Tor, Carl’s Wark and the Burbage, Hathersage, Bingham, Houndkirk and Lady Canning’s Moors, together with two quarries. Much of the land had the adaptability for water supply. To offset the loan the Corporation had already negotiated a deal with a local committee on behalf of the National Trust to buy the 747 acres around Longshaw Lodge. This would secure beautiful moorland and woodland for the preservation of natural beauty. A Ministry of Health inquiry was held in Sheffield, the day before the auction, and undertakings were given that no other buildings, other than those in connection with water supply, would be erected on the length of the roadway between Toad’s Mouth and the Surprise View. Nonetheless, the inquiry was told that the public would not be able to roam over Burbage Brook, Burbage Moor and Houndkirk as this would be made private for the purpose of the undertaking.
As a result of the auction more than half of the Duke of Rutland’s estate had been sold. Baslow Urban District Council bought 394 acres of Eaglestone Flat Moor for £3,000 to fortify their own water supply. Clod Hall and East Moor, some 868 acres, were purchased by the Duke of Devonshire and absorbed into the Chatsworth Estate. However, some of the larger moors still remained in the Duke of Rutland’s hands.
Longshaw Lodge was now in the hands of Sheffield Corporation but the handover to the National Trust was more complex. The sale necessitated £14,000 be raised by a group of Sheffield people. In 1924, Ethel Gallimore had formed the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Local Scenery with 12 ‘like-minded’ people. They met at Endcliffe Vale House, the home of her mother Mrs T.W. Ward, in Sheffield. In 1927 they were invited to become the Peak District branch for the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. One of their first tasks was to launch a joint appeal with the Council for Social Services to raise the money needed for the purchase of Longshaw Lodge. The appeal was also made in Manchester with the undertaking that a portion of the famous Surprise View on the Hathersage Road being dedicated if the response was satisfactory.
Co-ordinated by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the Longshaw land first opened to the public on Easter Weekend, 1928. It was patrolled by volunteer wardens with working parties from rambling clubs helping to maintain the estate. Meanwhile, speculation continued as to the future use of Longshaw Lodge itself. In early 1928 the building was considered for conversion into a convalescent home. The successful conversion of The Hayes, at Swanwick, into a conference centre and summer school, raised the idea that Longshaw Lodge might be suitable for similar use. However, in October it was announced that the building had been leased to the Holiday Fellowship, an offshoot of the Co-Operative Holidays Association, for a period of 21 years.
The Holiday Fellowship had been conceived by Thomas Arthur Leonard (1864-1948) with a group of friends at Matlock Bath in 1914. Their purpose being to “organise holidaymaking, promote the healthy enjoyment of leisure, to encourage the love of the outdoors and to promote social and international friendship”. This provided basic accessible walking holidays and Longshaw Lodge would be used as a guest house and a centre for weekend conferences as well as providing camping facilities for boy scouts and similar organisations. Soon, an army of workmen were busily converting Longshaw Lodge from ‘a cold bleak-looking place into a warm holiday home’.
“Here, the tired workers of the industrial towns will be able to enjoy the invigorating air of the moorland”.
On Friday 29th March 1929, Longshaw Lodge was opened as a guest house by Mr H. J. Stone, General Secretary of the Holiday Fellowship Ltd. It was announced that the adjoining private chapel would open later in the year for Sunday morning services. In the summer the Derby Evening Telegraph reported that “a congregation dressed in walking kit attended the private chapel and the lesson was read by a man wearing a cricket shirt – open at the neck”.
With Longshaw Lodge secure the transfer to the National Trust took three years to complete. The appeal had raised over £11,324, with the Sheffield Trust making a sizeable contribution. The money required was less than originally forecast and the remainder of the balance (£570) was met by the National Trust itself. On Saturday June 27th, 1931, at 4.15pm, a large crowd gathered outside Longshaw Lodge.
It comprised the many subscribers to the Longshaw Fund as well as curious onlookers who had travelled from Sheffield, Manchester and Derbyshire. Here, Professor George Macaulay Trevelyan, the well-known historian, who had himself given large areas of scenery to the nation, accepted the deeds on behalf of the National Trust. Speeches were made from the terrace and amplified to the gathering below. This was the first open countryside acquired by the National Trust in the Peak District and proved extremely popular with ramblers. From here on the National Trust would maintain a close association with ramblers and working parties from Sheffield, such as the Clarion Ramblers, would help maintain the estate.
Longshaw Lodge would continue to be a popular guest house with the Holiday Fellowship for many years. In the early 1930s they opened a café for the benefit of the public and eventually ended their lease in 1960. Two years later it was converted into residential flats with an annual rent of £200.
Nowadays the National Trust preserves the natural beauty of the estate as well as offering a visitor and discovery centre. Longshaw Lodge remains private accommodation but the rest of the estate provides open access for the public. One of the former shooting lodges, White Edge Lodge, is now a holiday cottage set in bleak but beautiful surroundings. The whole estate is within the Peak District National Park, created 20 years after the National Trust purchase. It remains within Derbyshire but straddles the border with Yorkshire (as a result of the initial Sheffield Corporation acquisition).
Special thanks for information provided by the National Trust and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England (Peak District and South Yorkshire)
Further information derived from ‘English Landed Society in the 20th Century’ by Madeleine Beard (1989), Routledge London;‘Country House Society’ by Pamela Horn (2013), Amberley.
Additional information from the newspaper archives of the Morning Post, Derby Daily Telegraph, Dundee Courier, Dundee Evening Telegraph, Hull Daily Mail and the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer.
Built: 1700s, early 1800s and remodelled between 1827-1833 Owner: The Chapman family Country house hotel Grade II* listed
Coursed squared limestone with sandstone dressings and quoins. Sandstone ashlar. Hipped and welsh slate roofs with various ashlar stacks. One and three storeys. Principal south elevation remodelled in 1827-33. Symmetrical seven bays. Ashlar, with plain first and second floor bands and intermediate sill bands. Moulded cornice and partly balustraded parapet. Central Tuscan Doric pedimented doorcase. (Historic England)
Derbyshire is blessed with fine old houses. The grandest of them all is Chatsworth which tends to eclipse the fortunes of its less important neighbours.
Hassop Hall might well fit into this category, yet it stands only a few short miles away. It dominates the small hamlet of Hassop – a gathering of small houses and a farm – two miles north of Bakewell.
It stands on the hillside with spectacular views across the parkland towards the valley below. It has a celebrated history but, for the fact it has served just five families, is often overlooked by architectural historians. This is a shame because its origins are far more gracious than its modern re-creation as the Hassop Hall Hotel suggests. This is not to belittle the near forty years with the Chapman family because they have turned it into a gem of a property.
Hassop Hall is simplistic but the south front is positively grandiose. The building is made of coursed squared limestone with an ashlar front, the roof is Welsh slated with ashlar stone stacks. This is all capped with a balustrade parapet. The house is three-storeys with 7 symmetrical bays alternately cantered to full height. The three round windows on the third floor are perceptively placed and complete Hassop’s beauty.
The visitor approaches from the east which effectively shows the back of the house. However, the eye is able to take in the restored ballroom range and the dominating coach and stable blocks which make up for the lack of spectacle.
The original house was in the Foljambe family. The house then passed through marriage to the Plumptons until the late 15thcentury when it was sold to Catherine, the widow of Stephen Eyre.
During the Civil War Rowland Eyre turned it into a Royalist garrison and the house was the scene of several battles. After the Parliamentary victory the house was captured and had to be redeemed at a cost of £21,000. By this time Rowland’s father had dismantled much of the old hall and replaced it with the present one.
Thomas Eyre later rebuilt much of the house between 1827 and 1833 in an L-shaped plan and moved the entrance from the south side to the west. He also built the impressive stable block and coach house to the north and the long ballroom above the dairy.
The estate eventually passed to Dorothy, sister of Francis, in 1852 and then to her widower, Colonel Charles Leslie, a year later.
The land around Hassop had always been rich in minerals and the Eyre family had made their fortune by mining. Lead was their biggest source of income and it is reputed that today there are two large manholes in the floor of the cellar that lead to one such abandoned mine. Other income was derived from fluorspar and the lesser known chert (this was transported to Staffordshire for pottery making).
By the start of the 20th century Hassop’s fortunes were on the decline.
After the first world war the house, like many others, stood empty and in a poor state of repair.
It was the intervention of Colonel Henry Kenyon Stephenson (1865-1947) who managed to revive its fortunes. He bought Hassop Hall from the Leslies in 1919.
Stephenson was a man of great resources and titles. During his lifetime he was the Chairman of Stephenson Blake, the Sheffield type foundry, an MP for Sheffield (Park), the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, the High Sheriff of Derbyshire and a Pro-Chancellor at Sheffield University. He would later become the 1st Baronet Stephenson in 1936. It was Stephenson who brought the house back to life and introduced electricity and modern plumbing.
Hassop would pass to Stephenson’s son, Sir Henry Francis Blake Stephenson (1895-1982), the 2nd Baronet.
During 1953 he made alterations to the house including the removal of the top two floors of the north-west wing. It is unsure as to the state of the house’s fortunes at this time but they may have influenced Stephenson’s decision to sell in 1975.
The new buyer was Thomas Henry Chapman (1939-2013), formerly of the Waterloo Hotel at Taddington. His previous occupation would have been a sign of things to come for Hassop Hall.
Chapman purchased the house, but not the estate, and within months the house had been converted into a luxury hotel.
Four decades later it remains in the private hands of the Chapman family and thrives as a wedding and conference venue. The interiors have been elegantly maintained. The Morning Room and Drawing Room have carved marble chimneypieces by the geologist and stonemason, White Watson, from nearby Ashford-on-the-Water while the green Sitting Room has a marble Tuscan fluted chimneypiece with marbles inset. The hotel’s steady management has also allowed the restoration to other parts. Over a twelve year period the derelict brew house, buttery and ballroom have been tastefully renovated. The 18th century Camellia House is being converted into 6 hotel suites.
The age and beauty of Hassop Hall makes it a quaint location. It thrives on stories of ghosts and phantom carriages. The mysteriousness is heightened with its underground passages. One such vaulted passage leads from the main house to the ballroom range. Other hidden passages lead down to the lake, the church and extra cellarage in the park.
We cannot leave Hassop Hall without mentioning the church which stands at the bottom of the main driveway.
This was built between 1816 and 1818 in a classical revival style, no doubt influenced by Francis Eyre’s Grand Tour of Europe. The Roman Catholic Church of All Saints was designed by Joseph Ireland and is said to be based on Inigo Jones’ St Pauls Covent Garden. He was assisted by his then apprentice, the architect Joseph John Scholes.
The church is built of stone from a Baslow quarry which would have been transported to Hassop using the turnpike road of 1745 when toll charges amounted to £10. It was later restored in 1886. Today it stands menacingly above the road with the front resembling that of an Etruscan temple, the interior rich with a coved coffered ceiling.
Hassop Hall Hotel, Hassop Road, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1NS
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.