Category Archives: SUFFOLK

SHRUBLAND HALL

One of Suffolk’s finest country houses is facing an uncertain future. It shows no signs of reopening as a hotel, and appears to be falling into disrepair.

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Shrubland Park, near Ipswich, Suffolk. This sketch appeared in The Illustrated London News in July 1851. It showed the arrival of Prince Albert after a meeting of the British Association in Ipswich. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In his book ‘In Search of the Perfect House,’ architectural historian Marcus Binney suggests that “in almost every other European country, Shrubland Hall would be called a palace. A grand Italianate composition with belvedere tower, breathtaking terraced gardens, Swiss cottage and five drives.”

Some of our finest architects were associated with Shrubland Hall (or Shrubland Park), making it hard to accept that the mansion has stood empty for nearly four years. In 2015, an ill-fated attempt to use the country house as a luxury hotel ended in failure. Since then, Shrubland has been left to ruminate its past glories.

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The Shrubland Hall estate was put on the market in 2006 with a price tag of £23 million. It was eventually split into 42 lots. The house sold for £6 million in 2009. Image: Boutique Hotelier.

Shrubland Hall was built in the 1770s by James Paine (1717-89) for the Reverend John Bacon. At the same time, Paine was commissioned to remodel Moor Park in Surrey for John Bacon’s younger brother, Basil, who had inherited the estate in 1770. The third brother, the Reverend Nicholas Bacon, almost certainly used the architect as well, rebuilding the vicarage at Coddenham (now Coddenham House) in 1771.

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Shrubland Hall. Lord de Saumarez decided to sell his family estate in Coddenham, near Ipswich, in 2006 to help pay off death duties. The decision to sell followed the death of Lord de Saumarez’s father in 1991 and his mother Lady de Saumarez in 2004. Image: Steve Parsons-Press Association.

John Bacon died in 1788, Shrubland passing to his brother, Nicholas, who immediately sold the estate to Sir William Fowle Middleton (1748-1829), 1st Baronet, of Crowfield. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, where his family owned Middleton Place, he arrived in Suffolk after inheriting Crowfield Hall near Stowmarket. His brother, Henry, gave him £30,000 to spend on improvements at Shrubland, and he employed Humphry Repton to expand the park from 1789 onwards, and replaced Paine wings in about 1808.

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Abandoned. Shrubland Hall has been empty since it closed as a hotel in 2015. Image: Caters News Agency.

Shrubland Hall was inherited by his only son, Sir William Fowle Middleton (1784-1860), 2nd Baronet, who brought in architect John Peter Gandy Deering in 1831-38, and later Alexander Roos between 1838-45, who enlarged and redecorated the house. About 1850, he turned to Sir Charles Barry who turned the property into an Italian palazzo.

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Shrubland Park was designed by James Paine in the 1770s and passed by marriage through the families of Oake, Bothe, Lytton, Little, Bacon, until it was bought in the late 18th century by William Middleton of Crowfield who was created Sir William Fowle Middleton Bart. Image: TripAdvisor.

After his death, Sir William’s cousin, Sir George Nathaniel Broke Middleton, took over. In 1882, it passed to his niece, Jane Anne Broke, and her husband, James St. Vincent (1843-1937), 4th Baron de Saumarez, in the Island of Guernsey, and leased to tenants, including Lord Magheramorne.

During World War One it was one of the first country mansions to be turned into a Red Cross Convalescent Hospital.

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June 1934. The Hon. Mrs Saumarez with her elder daughter, Miss Veronica Saumarez, and her sons, Philip and James at Shrubland Park. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Abandoned. Shrubland Hall has several portraits of the Royal Family, including the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day. Ironically, it was the childhood haunt of Roddy Llewellyn, who had an eight-year relationship with Princess Margaret. Image: Caters News Agency.

In 1965, James Victor Broke Saumarez (1924-1991), 6th Baron, opened the house as a health clinic, leaving the family furniture and valuable collections in place. It was the brainchild of Lady de Saumarez, a former Royal Ballet dancer who married into the family and supervised its running. With an emphasis on detox and weight loss, the hall remained unchanged for forty years, and attracted high-profile guests, including actress Joan Collins. When the clinic closed in 2006, the contents were sold, and the house eventually put on the market by Eric Douglas Saumarez (born 1956), 7th Baron de Saumarez, to cover an inheritance tax bill.

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Abandoned. Shrubland Hall still contains furniture left over from its days as a hotel. Image: Caters News Agency.
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Abandoned. Overgrown plants are slowly taking over parts of the mansion. Image: Caters News Agency.
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Abandoned. The furnished property is regally decorated with red sofas, golden gilded doors and chandeliers. Image: Caters News Agency.

In 2009, the Shrubland estate was sold in 42 lots, the house being bought for £6 million by Dr Muhammad Farmer, Chief Executive and founder of the British Institute of Technology and E-Commerce, which used it as residential accommodation.

Shrubland Hall was far too grand. Farmer’s decision to convert the mansion into an extravagant hotel in 2014 should have been a rewarding undertaking, taking “prestigious guests … on a journey back to the future,” but the Shrubland Royale Hotel suffered scathing reviews, quickly closing in 2015.

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In the outside unkempt grounds of the property sits a cannon from Russian war. Image: Caters News Agency.

Mr Farmer claimed that a “celebrity guest” had booked the entire hotel until the following year. However, by September 2016, signs outside the hall had been removed, the gates were closed and booking attempts were declined.  It went on the market for £6.5 million, but remains unsold despite recent claims from Mr Hubbard that the Hilton hotel franchise were interested in taking over the property. A claim later denied by the hotel operator.

The East Anglian Daily Times visited the Shrubland Park Walk – a public right of way that passes through the grounds – in 2017. “The hall appeared an unlikely retreat for any film or music star. The only sign of activity was an older man chopping wood with a chainsaw. Many of the outbuildings appeared in disrepair and the vast grounds left overgrown.”

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A statute outside of the palatial mansion is seen in poor condition after the property fell into disrepair. Image: Caters News Agency.
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Abandoned. Shrubland Hall awaits its fate. The mansion contains 31-bedrooms. Image: Caters News Agency.

Meanwhile, Shrubland Hall deteriorates and following complaints from the parish council, Historic England has visited the house to assess the condition of the gardens and the Grade I listed mansion. The park has been on its Heritage at Risk Register for several years.

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Shrubland Hall features an elegant room with a 007 plaque on the door. Shrubland Hall was used in the 1983 James Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again.’ Image: Caters News Agency.

EXNING HOUSE

Lord Glanely is probably best remembered today as a noted racehorse owner, whose horses won all five Classic races of the British turf. However, he made his money in shipping.

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Image: Strutt & Parker.

Exning House was built by Francis Shepheard in 1734 to the design of the mason, Andrews Jelfe. From that time, it was occupied by the principal landowners in the village. It was at the centre of 1 700 acres estate and from the early 19th century was set in an extensive park.

The Shepheard family were wealthy landowners, possessing several manors and much property, sufficiently for the illegitimate daughter of Samuel, the surviving brother of Francis, to be described as an heiress, and win the hand of Charles Ingrham, one of the many sons of Lord Arthur Ingrham of Temple Newsam in Yorkshire.

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The front of Exning House, later Glanely Rest, used as an old peoples home before becoming empty. Image: Exning.net.

The estate was sold in 1794 to John Dobede, chairman of the Newmarket Bench and a senior magistrate in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, whose son, Henry F. Dobede, restored and enlarged the hall. In 1881, the house was auctioned and sold to Mr Fenn of Newmarket, representing the Stewards of the Jockey Club, for £165,000. It was deemed an important purchase, being adjacent to the race-course, and suitable for accommodation purposes. When the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Newmarket for the July meeting in 1882, it was here that they stayed.

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Image: Strutt & Parker.

In 1883, Exning House, along with its gardens and grounds, was let to Lord and Lady Carcross. They remained until 1891, at which time the Jockey Club put a portion of the Exning estate up for sale, including the mansion itself. The sales catalogue described it as ‘a mansion of handsome and classic design in red brick, with stone facings and Corinthian portico, situate in a finely-wooded park’. At the auction, it sold for £32,500 to Mr Morton, a London solicitor, acting on behalf of Captain Edward W. D. Baird, a retired officer of the 10th Hussars. Baird had a keen interest in horse-racing and was the eventual owner of Woolwinder, which won the St Leger in 1907. He became Major Baird after accepting a temporary rank in the Imperial Yeomanry in 1900, later attaining the rank of Colonel.

Colonel Baird made several improvements at Exning House, but a serious fire in April 1909 damaged the property. The outbreak originated in the upper portion of the new north wing, where, in addition to about twenty servants, the nurseries, governess’s and housekeeper’s apartments were situated. Several rooms were gutted, and so serious was the outlook that a large body of men started removing the valuable contents, completely emptying the house and placing them in the park. The blaze destroyed the north wing, built in 1893 for £15,000, and Colonel Baird and some of his helpers had sustained several injuries. The house was rebuilt using the architect Philip Webb to alter and extend the property in 1896.

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Image: Exning.net.

When the Bairds moved to their London home in 1913, the Exning estate was put up for sale and purchased by Lord St. Davids.

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Image: Strutt & Parker.
William James Tatem, 1st Baron Glanely of St Fagans - museum-wales
William James Tatem, 1st Baron Glanely of St Fagans. Image: Museum-Wales.

William James Tatum, 1st Baron Glanely, a Cardiff shipping magnate, philanthropist, and thoroughbred racehorse owner acquired Exning Hall and the Le Grange Stable in Newmarket sometime before 1920. Born in Devon, the son of Thomas Tatem, who died the year he was born, the young William, aged 12, signed on and sailed on a voyage around the Cape Horn. He later entered the office of a Cardiff shipowner, gradually building up his own business, and was described as ‘a cabin boy to millionaire’. Tatem was created a Baronet in 1916, and two years later rose to the peerage. Between 1919 and his death in 1941, his horses won 6 Newmarket Classic races. In June 1942, after taking a summer house in Weston-Super-Mare, he was killed in a German air raid on the town

After his death, Exning House passed to his nephew, George Cock Gibson of Lanwades Hall in 1948, who put it to use as a home for the elderly, along with a cash donation of £10,000. Known as Glanely Rest, the house was later abandoned until converted into three separate properties.

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One of a pair of wrought iron gates leading into Glanely Rest from Windmill Hill. Image: Exning.net.
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The rear view of Glanely Rest from an old postcard. Image: Exning.net.

Exning House is Grade II* listed because of the rare, almost complete example of a country house by Philip Webb. In September, 2018, it is on sale at Strutt & Parker with a guide price of £1.55 million.