Category Archives: YORKSHIRE

FIRBECK HALL

14115024_1174791735914022_8195282776963140253_o

Day by day this Grade II listed house falls into disrepair despite long-running plans to turn it into a residential development.  If its crumbling walls could talk they might reveal long forgotten conversations between partying aristocrats, famous actors and even Royalty.

The early years

Firbeck Hall was built in 1594 by William West, a lawyer of Moorgate Hall, Rotherham and Steward to the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury and to the Manor of Sheffield at the time of Mary Queen of Scots’ imprisonment. West wrote a legal book called Symbolaeographia and was succeeded by his son William.

William’s son John West died in 1638, leaving a sister and co-heir, Elizabeth, who married Lord Darcy, son of Michael Darcy and Margaret Wentworth. She went on to marry a second time, marrying Sir Francis Fane, who inherited Firbeck after her death.

It remained with the West’s until 1669 before being sold to William Woolhouse. He sold it to Jonathan Stanyforth in 1676 and passed through several generations before being sold to Henry Gally Knight, a Barrister-at-Law, in 1800. He was son of the Rev. Henry Gally, Chaplain in Ordinary to George II, distinguished among the literati of his day, who married Elizabeth, only sister and heir of Ralph Knight of Langold. The Gallys were a refugee family which sought asylum in England on the revocation of the Edict of nantes.

On Henry’s death in 1808 the estates at Firbeck and Langold Park were left to his only son, also called Henry Gally Knight (1786-1846). Henry Gally Knight Jr was elected as M.P. for Nottinghamshire in 1835. In the literary world he gained considerable reputation, and published, on his return from travelling in Greece and Syria, a volume of poems under the title Eastern Sketches. He married Henrietta, youngest daughter and co-heir of Anthony Hardolph Eyre, of Grove Park, but did not have any children. After his death Firbeck was willed to Ecclesiastical Commissioners who sold Firbeck Hall to Frances Harriett Miles – nee Jebb – in 1853. Upon her death the Firbeck estates formed the Miles Trust which was inherited by Sydney Gladwin Jebb in 1898 on the death of his uncle, the Rev. Henry Gladwin Jebb.

Sydney Gladwyn Jebb was a West Riding J.P. and wealthy landowner. He was the son of Captain Joshua Gladwyn Jebb of Barnby Moor House, Nottinghamshire. In his later years he lived with his wife, Rose, at Caring House near Maidstone. Attempts to sell the house in 1909 failed and the house subsequently rented out. During the Great War it became the base for Belgian refugees.

Firbeck Auction Notice Sheffield Daily Telegraph 15 May 1909
Auction notice from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 15th May, 1909. Sydney Jebb unsuccessfully tried to exploit Firbeck’s location on a main coalfield. (British Newspaper Archive)

One cold November morning in 1924 the house suffered a serious fire. The occupant at the time was Mr Albert Orlando Peech, chairman of a large steel manufacturing company, Messrs. Steel, Peech & Tozer, of Sheffield. He was renting the house and awoke to find flames coming from the servants’ quarters. When it was realised that the fire had obtained too strong a hold the valuable oil paintings and furniture in the mansion were removed to the park outside. Despite the attendance of fire engines from Rotherham, Doncaster and Worksop the central portion of the hall was gutted. Most of the roof collapsed bringing with it a shower of molten lead.

18199074_1483398621731630_3948079583252636152_n

The Jebb family severed links with Firbeck Hall in May 1934. There had been plans to sell the house at auction in Worksop. However, a few weeks earlier an approach had been made by Mr Cyril Nicholson, a stock broker from Sheffield, to purchase the whole of the 1,500 acre estate. In addition to the house there were six farms, 14 small holdings and a number of cottages. It was reported that he intended to retain the estate as it was but nobody could have anticipated the plans he had in store.

Firbeck Hall Club

“The club which will be opened sometime next month is the only one of its kind in the north of England. There is nothing to compare with it near London.” Mr Santos Casini, Sheffield Independent, 8 March 1935.

Firbeck Hall will forever be remembered for the celebrated period between 1935 and 1939. Although Cyril Nicholson had bought the estate he had secretly been making plans with two business associates. These were Lord Feilding, eldest son of the 9th Earl of Denbigh,  and Mr Santos Casani, a famous dancer of the Casani Club in London. Between them they turned the old family house into the Firbeck Hall Club. The hall retained its outward appearance but its old interiors were, by modern standards, inexplicably destroyed. The old panelled walls gave way to brightly covered walls and the interior rooms were covered almost entirely with mirrors. The fashionable art deco style was created by Robert Hawkwell of the Sheffield architect firm of Hadfield Hawkwell Davidson.  The total cost was £80,000 with actual alterations alone to the building costing £45,000. With the fire damage it took almost a year to complete.

The inside was a triumph, winning acclaim from specialist journals including Architecture Illustrated, which published pictures of the hall’s la mode zebra prints, sweeping plaster work and streamlined ocean liner-esque fittings.

“Where once there were darkly-panelled rooms there are now dance halls with maple floors, cocktail bars with stainless steel furniture, dining rooms upholstered with its latest Zebra pattern coverings, grill rooms and billiard rooms.”

Greta Nissen at Firbeck Hall - Sheffield Independent 17 Oct 1935
Greta Nissen, the film and stage actress, took up residence at Firbeck Hall while appearing in Leeds and Sheffield. ‘Miss Nissen was able to ride every day, play squash and read at least six books a week’. (British Newspaper Archive)

Furniture for Firbeck Hall was provided by a well-known firm of local furnishers, James and William Hastings Ltd, of Bridegate in Rotherham. They supplied all the special tables for the grill room and restaurant, and also a quantity of special coffee and cocktail tables made to the design of the Finish architect, Alvar Aalto.

Ellis Pearson and Co were employed to provide the mirrors which ran the full length of the dining room walls. Cut into them were sporting scenes depicting the activities of the club. In the grill room they created windows with silhouette figures. These, with large mirrors in the ballroom, ballroom lounge and bars were regarded as ‘the finest glass work executed in the British Isles’.

Of significance was the state-of-the-art lighting system installed by Kenneth Friese-Greene. The ballroom was illuminated by concealed lighting in the cornice providing an even, soft light throughout the room. A control on the band platform changed the lighting from white to a rotary colour-changing dimmer driven by an electric motor. The glass panels in the ceiling of the dining room, reception hall were all lit by concealed floodlights.

The Tatler 9 Sept 1936
A full page feature from The Tatler, 9 September, 1936. (British Newspaper Archive)

In the grounds and park there was a new 100 ft outdoor heated swimming pool (constructed by B. Powell and Son of Sheffield) as well as tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course designed by celebrity golfer John S.F. Morrison. The championship-standard squash courts were described as being comparable to those at the Bath Club.

Most significant was the new aerodrome, designed by the famous airman Captain Tom Campbell Black, joint winner of the Mildenhall-Melbourne Air Race in 1935, where the rich and famous, including the Prince of Wales (on his royal Dragon aircraft) and Amy Johnson, flew in.

zw4
This aeroplane was the private aircraft of the Prince of Wales who visited the club on 12 July 1935 at the invitation of Tom Campbell-Black. It was a De-Haviland Rapid painted in the colours of the a Guards Regiment. The Prince took tea on the terrace overlooking the swimming pool, after which he left for London by air. (www.bulterman.eu)

A first-hand account of Firbeck was given in 2000, by former club-goer Luke Seymour, a director of estate agent Henry Spencer and Sons of Sheffield, who recalled events in the Sheffield Star:

“Evening parties were very popular – and dangerous in the pool. “John Bowett – who had never dived in his life before – and Ted Tylden-Wright both dived off the high board in their morning suits after a Bowett wedding.”

Noel Wade wrote in 2000:-

“The ground floor featured a mirrored walled ballroom with a maple wood floor and a lighting system that changed the colour and tone of the room. Also on the ground floor was the clubs main restaurant with its London West End chef and maitre d’hotel, the kitchen had the capacity to provide over 400 table d’hote dinners. The lounges had furnishings covered in a zebra stripe material that was complimented by the distinct patterned mirrors gracing the lounge walls. The Cocktail bar became a popular place to socialise and sample one of the latest American cocktail recipes flamboyantly the Cocktail barman. On the second floor was located a smaller grillroom that had a reputation for serving the best of English breakfasts and steaks, a card room that became the scene of regular high stake games and a smaller ballroom with reception areas that could accommodate small private functions. In addition there were a number of bedrooms, furnished in an older more traditional style.Adjoiniug the Hall was the Dormey House, which over looked the 18 hole putting green and contained twelve bedrooms furnished to a very high standard of comfort in the latest of 1930’s designs.”

firbeck-hall-from-the-air-w960
Firbeck Club from the air. The subscriptions included full use of the Hall and Gardens the swimming pool and Tea Terraces, 18 hole putting Course, squash racket court and Tennis court. (Leonard A.K. Halcombe)

Colonel W. Elwy-Jones, whose work at the Piccadilly Hotel had made him one of the best known figures in London, was appointed the Managing Director. He told reporters: “In these days of flying, when you can fly from London to Sheffield in an hour, distance really means nothing. I intend to make the club the last word in social amenities. There has always been criticism of cooking in the provinces and I intend to alter this by supplying as good food as any to be found in the West End.”  Shortly afterwards he appointed a new Catering Manager known by one name only, Emil, who had previously worked at the Savoy and the Adelphi and also joined Firbeck from the Picadilly Hotel.

The club was so sought after that even Vogue published an entire Firbeck supplement featuring beautiful 1930s-clad women posing throughout the club’s vast grounds. Within a few months the Firbeck Club had 700 members with Life Membership fees ranging between three to seven guineas. One disreputable member turned out to to be Mr Leslie Francis Collier who managed to pass himself off as the Earl of Macduff. Leaving a trail of deception he obtained money and left a trail of debt throughout Britain. His charade ended after flying into Firbeck from Scotland and someone recognised that he wasn’t actually the real Earl of MacDuff. The police were called and he was arrested.

Such was the increasing reputation of the club, that the BBC also transmitted its weekly Saturday show “Late Night Dance Music” with Henry Hall, Carroll Gibbons and Charlie Kunz from Firbeck. The club was fitted throughout with Dynatron receiving and amplifying apparatus for diffusing radio, gramophone records, speech and band music.

18198612_1483398538398305_119988268341173179_n

In 1938 the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer wrote: “Firbeck Hall is an erstwhile stately home of England, which has saved itself by becoming a country club. Just across the way Sandbeck Hall (Park) seems to frown sternly on these goings-on. Sandbeck is still a ‘Stately Home’ within the meaning of Mr Noel Coward’s act.” It was a golden period for Firbeck Hall but proved to be short-lived when gaieties were halted with the devastating outbreak of World War Two.

fb2
A country club run on super-American lines. This is the south wing and shows where summer lunches were served out of doors. (Leonard A.K. Halcombe)
FB1
Firbeck was compared to Gleneagles. Set in its own 200 acres of landscaped grounds the club was able to take full advantage of its rural location with meandering streams and placid lakes.  (Leonard A.K. Halcombe)

At first there were no immediate threats to the club and Cyril Nicholson generously offered hospital beds at Firbeck Hall.  These were still early days but it was soon apparent that the house would be pressed into full-time service. The writing was on the wall but Nicholson, Feilding (by now deceased) and Elwy-Jones had already turned their attention elsewhere a few years earlier. Between them they had bought the Grand Hotel in Sheffield and, by the time the war started, this large Edwardian building had been refurbished to retain its title as the city’s finest hotel.

Gone with the glamour and war intervenes

Firbeck Hall was taken over by the Sheffield Joint Hospitals Board and the dwindling country club shunted into the nearby Lake House. It became an annexe of the Sheffield Royal Infirmary  for the duration while the aerodrome was converted into RAF Firbeck, comprising four squadrons from 1940 to 1944. The dream had died and in 1943 Cyril Nicholson put Firbeck Hall up for sale. There were no takers for the estate and it would take until 1945 for the Miners’ Welfare Commission to acquire it as a rehabilitation centre.

Auction - Northampton Mercury 7 May 1943
Sale notice from May 1943 (British Newspaper Archive)

Speaking about the acquisition Mr J.A. Hall, the Yorkshire Miners’ President and a member of the commission, said: “It would be a fitting counterpart to the Scottish miners’ rehabilitation centre at Gleneagles, and an establishment for Yorkshire miners to be proud of. Every care would be taken during adaptation to preserve the architectural outlines of the historic mansion.” The purchase price was £30,000 and extensions and alterations were soon underway including the enclosure of the open-air swimming pool. By the time it opened in 1946 there was room for 70 patients within the old house.

In 1984 it transferred to the Trent Regional Health Authority as a convalescence home for industrial injuries but this eventually closed in 1990. 27-years-later, Firbeck Hall remains derelict, eerily lost and in the most precarious condition. It was bought by successive owners in 1996 and 2010 before being bought by Ashley Wildsmith in 2014. He plans a residential development for the country house with plans drawn up by architects Building Link Design from Doncaster.

FB3
Original Postcard of Firbeck Hall. Courtesy of Mrs Christine Hill.
14138833_1174791579247371_4408378679551523811_o (1)
Firbeck Hall today. It has stood empty since 1990 and is a target for vandals and ‘urban’ explorers
Dawniex
Awaiting a return to its glory days. Firbeck Hall, derelict and waiting for redevelopment (Dawniex)
18278515_1483398358398323_5357054120549848088_o
The ‘Ghost House’. It is hard to imagine the once happy times at Firbeck Country Club

Firbeck Hall,
Firbeck, South Yorkshire, S81 8JR

Links
Friends of Firbeck Hall
28 days later

SANDBECK PARK

Sandbeck - Roger Perris
Sandbeck Park.  James Paine’s Palladian front was very unusual for the period. (Roger Perris)

Built: c.1765-1768
Architect: James Paine
Owner: Earl of Scarbrough
Country House
Grade I listed

“Dickon Scarbrough was much appreciated in the Sandbeck neighbourhood, and miners from the nearby Maltby pit were happy to act as beaters at his pheasant shoots. During the miners’ strike of 1984 there was a sudden lull during a drive, explained when a beater emerged from behind a bush. ‘Sorry, my lord,’ he said, ‘but we’ll have to scarper. There’s some snoopers from the DHSS over there in a van.'” (Obituary for the 12th Earl of Scarbrough, The Telegraph, 17 April 2004)

The former mining town of Maltby might not be the obvious place for a grand old country house. Many locals consider it down-at-heel yet, not far from its centre, is Sandbeck Park, the family seat of the Earl of Scarbrough since the 18th century, and to whom many residents of this small South Yorkshire town still pay their ground rent to.

Today Sandbeck Park is relatively unknown but it has seen its fair share of noble visitors.  It’s close location to Doncaster Racecourse firmly placed the house into the diaries of landed gentry as well as Kings and Queens, including our present one. If all this is forgotten then Maltby’s inhabitants delight in speculation that former model, actress and author Joanna Lumley might somehow be related to the present occupants of the house!

This Grade I listed house dates to the 17th century with extensive remodelling in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It lies close to the ruins of the better-known Roche Abbey, founded in 1147 by Cistercian monks.

The 1st recorded house at Sandbeck was built-in 1626 for Sir Nicholas Saunderson, 1st Viscount Castleton.  Sandbeck passed to Thomas Lumley later 3rd Earl of Scarbrough who died in 1752.

Sandbeck remained in the hands of the Castletons until 1723, when the sixth viscount, who was granted an earldom in 1720, died without an heir. He willed Sandbeck to his cousin, Thomas Lumley, the 3rd Earl of Scarbrough.

Sandbeck Park
Perhaps no great house in Yorkshire is more out-of-the-way than the Earl of Scarbrough’s seat. Nothing can be seen of it until several sylvan labyrinths and luxuriant groves have been threaded.”

In 1760 the fourth earl hired Neoclassical architect James Paine to considerably rebuild and extend the 17th century house in the fashionable Palladian style.  Paine had a favourable reputation in Yorkshire including his work at Nostell Priory, Hickleton Hall, Cusworth Hall and the Mansion House in Doncaster. He was also responsible for the huge stable block at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

Between 1763 and 1768 he enlarged the main building with a new Grecian front and added several outbuildings, including gatehouses and the limestone stables. Paine allegedly used stones from Roche Abbey during the construction of the house.

Sandbeck_Park,_by_James_Paine
Early architectural drawing of the east front created by James Paine between 1763 and 1768.

If the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the later handiwork of James Paine hadn’t robbed Roche Abbey of its contents then much worse was to come.

In 1774, the fourth earl commissioned Capability Brown to completely landscape the area, signing a contract to pay him £2,800 for work to last through 1777. It appears that Brown had little regard for the historical value of the abbey and systematically destroyed much of it to satisfy contemporary tastes. When finished the abbey was little more than a romantic folly.

‘Brown engineered a lake and islands over Roche’s southern buildings, substituted a river for the medieval water channels, contrived a waterfall to cascade from the Laughton Pond, and composed irregular tree groupings in surrounding fields. He also levelled the ruins’ irregular walls to provide a uniform grassed foreground for a banqueting lodge’.

Roche Abbey (Photo4me)
The park was landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown between 1774-77 with Thomas White, Adam Mickle senior and Adam Mickle junior. Roche Abbey was partly dismantled and its grounds landscaped to create a ‘contemporary’ vista.

In 1857, the 9th Earl of Scarbrough turned to the Scottish architect William Burn to further remodel and improve the house. This resulted in significant internal alterations and in 1869 Benjamin Ferrey, an ecclesiastical architect and pupil of Augustus Charles Pugin, built a private chapel for the earl.  A 19th-century service wing that linked the house to Sandbeck Chapel was demolished in 1954.

Sandbeck - Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Aug 3 1911
A garden fete and bazaar in aid of the new mission church at Maltby. The photograph on the left is of Sandbeck Hall, while on the right are members of the house party, including (in addition to the Earl of Scarbrough and the Countess of Scarbrough) the Countess Grosvenor, the Countess of Bradford, the Marchioness of Zetland, Colonel the Hon. O. Lumley and the Hon. Mrs Lumley, Lady Serena Lumley, and Miss Ashton. From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, August 3rd, 1911. (British Newspaper Archive)

There might have been a steady decline in its social status, not helped by its close proximity to Maltby Colliery, one of Britain’s largest deep coal mines that closed in 2013. Sandbeck Park is now the home of Richard Osbert Lumley, 13th Earl of Scarbrough (b.1973). They still own the former family seat at Lumley Castle which now functions as a hotel. The 13th Earl has continued the good work started by his father (who was a godson of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and of the 1st Earl of Halifax) by helping charities, with the Dinnington-based Safe@Last being one of his top priorities. He is a patron of the charity which provides refuge and help for runaway youngsters or those in danger at home.

Sandbeck_Park_House_and_Chapel
Modern view of Sandbeck Park with the Chapel once connected by a 19th century service wing.

Read more at Handed On

Sandbeck Park,
Maltby, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, S66 8PB

ROCKWOOD HOUSE

rockwood-house-1-fine-and-country
Built: 1870
Architect: Unknown
Owner: Private ownership
Country House

Stone steps lead to the main reception with tall doors opening to the formal entrance to the house. The centrally positioned, spectacular T shaped hallway presents an immediate impressive introduction to Rockwood House showcasing original features including deep skirting boards and an impressive high ceiling height (a theme which is continued throughout), ornate coving and the most spectacular bespoke, carved oak staircase and stained glass leaded window reminiscent of the period of build. (Fine & Country)

rockwood-house-a-finecountry
Rockwood House. This image taken was in 1910 ny Mr Smith Carter (Kirklees Image Archive)

Rockwood House is an unassuming and little known property tucked quietly outside Denby Dale  to the south-east of Huddersfield. In early times Denby Dale was sparsely-populated but like so many other Pennine hamlets it grew with the dawn of the industrial revolution. Not surprisingly, the area developed a small textiles industry and the population spread. These circumstances were the reasons why Rockwood House was built and can be called one of those ‘brass castles’, properties built from the proceeds of commerce and industry. 

15800103_1339945689410258_4012617388064785068_o
The modern day approach provides a perfect view of Rockwood House (Fine & Country)


Walter Norton (1833-1909)

Rockwood House  was built in 1870 for Walter Norton, the second son of Joseph Norton who had built Nortonthorpe Hall at Scissett. Along with his brother Benjamin and his cousin, Thomas Norton of Bagden Hall, they ran a ‘plush’ manufacturing business, Norton Brothers & Company Ltd, manufacturing  fancy shawl, mantle cloth, dress goods and rugs at Nortonthorpe Mills.

Walter was chairman, a role he appreciated, and held a similar position at the Denby Dale Gas Light Company.  Money was something the Norton family weren’t short of,  but Walter quickly earned his own fortune.  He married his cousin, Elizabeth Norton, the eldest daughter of George Norton of Bagden Hall, in 1859.

He gained a reputation as a keen sportsman and founded the Rockwood Harriers Hunt in 1868 of which he was Master for many years and which still exists today. It was after the hunt that he named Rockwood House.

Eleven years after his marriage he bought 500 acres of land on the far side of Denby Dale, just far enough away from his employees who worked on the other side of the village towards Scissett.  The architect of Rockwood House is unknown but it was typical of a small Victorian country house complete with castellations, a central front door and bays either side. Then, as now, its appearance was deceptive as the interior was much larger than its appearance suggested .

walter-norton-1833-1909-l-robinson-collection
Walter Norton (1833-1909) (L Robinson Collection)

Walter and Elizabeth lived happily at Rockwood House entertaining family and friends. He was a pillar of the community, buying the manorial rights to Penistone in 1877, a strong Conservative and churchman and was much attached to Camberworth Church. For over thirty years he was also a West Riding Magistrate frequently sitting at the Barnsley Petty Sessional Court. Despite all this, his marriage to Elizabeth failed to deliver any children, and he became a widower following her death in 1903. Walter died six years later in 1909 leaving estate worth £45,099.¹

rockwood-house-b
The house in 1910. The image is from the collection of Mr Smith Carter (Kirklees Image Archive)


Dr Duncan Alistair MacGregor (1857-1924)

With no heir to Walter Norton the contents of the house were sold at auction but Rockwood remained within the family. It passed to Dr Duncan Alistair MacGregor who stayed for the next ten years. He had married the daughter of Dr Clayton, of Highfield House in Denby Dale, who also happened to be the niece of Walter Norton.

barnsley-chronicle-etc-saturday-23-october-1909
Auction notice (Barnsley Chronicle 23 October 1909)

MacGregor had spent nearly 40 years in practice at Clayton West and Denby Dale where he was held in high regard. He was also the Medical Officer of Health for the township of Gunthwaite and Ingbirchworth, near Penistone.  In 1919 he was offered the post of Medical Officer to the Exeter City Mental Hospital, and so at the age of 62, he moved his family away from Rockwood House which was put for let.  MacGregor died at Exmouth in 1924 leaving a widow and a son and daughter.²

yorkshire-post-and-leeds-intelligencer-saturday-19-april-1919
Newspaper notice for Rockwood House (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 19 April 1919)


Wilfred Dawson (1871-1936)

Following MacGregor’s move to Devon the house was occupied by Wilfred Dawson J.P., a typical Yorkshire councillor, who had entered the Council of the County Borough of Huddersfield unopposed at a by-election of 1917. He became Lord Mayor between 1921 and 1923 and later became chairman of the Finance and Watch Committee. His greatest achievement had been the purchase of the Ramsden Estate by Huddersfield Corporation in 1919, at the time the largest purchase of valuable land ever made by a British municipality. Outside of council affairs he was a director of W. Bentley & Co, stock and share brokers, as well as being a director and vice-chairman of Huddersfield Town Football Club.

The ownership of Rockwood House at this time is uncertain. It is possible that it remained in the Norton estate after MacGregor left. It is also feasible that Wilfred Dawson eventually purchased Rockwood because newspaper reports of 1924 suggest he might have been the owner. In this year the house was once again offered for let but we do know that by 1925 it was the residence of Henry Gordon Cran.³

fancy-dress-party-at-rockwood-house-for-wounded-soldiers-from-denby-dale-auxiliary-hospital-denby-dale-kirkburton-archive-collection
Fancy dress party at Rockwood House for wounded soldiers from Denby Dale Auxiliary Hospital (Denby Dale and Kirkburton Archive)

Henry Gordon Cran (1889-1971)

Very little is known about Henry Gordon Cran and his purchase of Rockwood House was likely to have taken place during 1924. However, the house was reported to have been sold by Cran by private treaty in 1925. By now the estate consisted of approximately 30 acres including three paddocks with timbered grounds and walks. It was a far cry from Walter Norton’s 500 acres which had been sold off in various lots over the years.

Henry Gordon Cran, a former member of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, had married Dorothy, the daughter of William and Mary Broadbent, of Huddersfield. Her father was the son of Thomas Broadbent, who had founded an engineering and millwright business in 1864. After repairing and refurbishing several centrifugal extractors, installed as dryers in the textile industry, he had seen potential for its application in other industries which had a need for separating liquids and solid. In 1870 he had produced his own extractor to remove water from washed wool and cloth and became a rich man. He died in 1880 and the business was eventually passed to William Broadbent and his brother Horace. The company, known as Thomas Broadbent and Sons,  would eventually manufacture a diverse range of products including steam engines, cars and overhead travelling cranes.

It was into this family that Henry Gordon Cran married and inevitably found himself working as an engineer at Thomas Broadbent and Sons. In reality his job role was far more important than suggest. He was a designer and inventor and many patents were registered under his name. Cran became a wealthy man and was able to afford the grandness that Rockwood House provided.

rockwood-lodge-and-gates-l-robinson-collection
The entrance and lodge. The gates and wall have since disappeared. (L Robinson Collection)

It appears that the sale of 1925 did not proceed and the Cran family remained at Rockwood House until at least 1949 when Dorothy died. Henry died in 1971 at Threlkeld in Keswick.

Matters are confounded by reports that Colonel Alfred Whiston Bristow was living at Rockwood House in 1945. The house is listed as being owned by Henry Gordon Cran but it is conceivable that he may have rented it to Bristow.

Colonel  Alfred Whiston Bristow (1879-1949) was an engineer of remarkable versatility. He was a pioneer in aviation rising to the rank of commander in the Royal Naval Air Service and testing many early aero-engines. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.  In 1927 he became interested in low-temperature carbonisation and soon developed a successful and profitable industry. Besides being chairman of Low Temperatures Carbonisation Ltd (eventually known as Coalite and Chemical Products Ltd) he was the chair of various other similar companies.⁴

15844094_1339945932743567_5988925474923031402_o
The main entrance to Rockwood House photographed in 2016 (Fine & Country)
15874695_1339946022743558_6859854474479860822_o
The house retains its splendid Victorian charm despite several renovations (Fine & Country)


The 1950s and a period of uncertain ownership

Any doubts over ownership and tenancy of Rockwood House pale in comparison after 1950.

It is reported that the house passed through various owners and one significant name is mentioned. He was  Commander Henry George Kendall (1874-1965), a British sea-captain who survived several shipwrecks and was involved in the capture of Dr Crippen. He was also the captain of RMS Empress of Ireland which sank in the Saint Lawrence River after colliding with a Norwegian coal freighter in 1914. Alas, I am unable to confirm his connection with Rockwood House. He died in a nursing home in London in 1965.

commander-henry-george-kendall
Owner or not? Commander Henry George Kendall

Another account suggests that Rockwood House became a private school, known as St Aiden’s, and lasted until 1964. However, I can find no records to substantiate this and welcome any information from readers to clear up post-1950 use of the house,

In 1972 the house was converted into the Rockwood House Country Club, a restaurant and club, under the ownership of Richard Mattock Berry. The concept might have appeared reasonable but the undertaking was beset with problems. Financial difficulties pushed it into receivership and the country club closed in 1976.⁵

Rockwood House was bought by Michael Winch in 1980 who carried out extensive renovations to the house and grounds. During the miners’ strike of 1972 he had the enterprising idea of selling homemade decorated candles from the back of a van. This was the start of Candlelight Products Ltd which now employs 130 staff in the UK and a further 2,000 in the Far East.

The house has remained in the family since but it was put up for sale, along with 7 acres of land, for £1.85 million in 2016.

“It was my father who purchased Rockwood House around forty years ago, and for him, looking after the house itself and transforming the gardens has been a lifetime project. It’s an extremely impressive home, almost like a fairy-tale castle with its turrets and castellations. As you approach it via the very long, private driveway, you come around the corner and through the trees and the house slowly comes into view; it’s incredibly striking. It was a magical place to grow up in, very grand in both its appearance and scale. Every room, including the bathrooms has a beautiful open fireplace, and the house as a whole is awash with gorgeous period features. The rooms are all very large and the ceilings are high, but it’s a very comfortable family home and particularly conductive to entertaining. My father invested a lot of time and effort into completely transforming the gardens, and as well as adding lots of beautiful plants, he also had the tennis court refurbished and a swimming pool installed; it’s now an absolute paradise. The views are magnificent and a dense wood of exotic trees that were planted by Walter Norton, who was also a keen botanist, surrounds the house” (Ben Winch – Fine & Country Sale Brochure)

15844092_1339945456076948_5228388089549553899_o
The interior is far bigger than the outside suggests. Hall and staircase (Fine & Country)
15844469_1339946826076811_5463136551645351283_o
The house is built on two levels. The staircase and decorative windows (Fine & Country)

References:-
¹Barnsley Chronicle (28 Aug 1909)
²Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (21 Apr 1924)
³Yorkshire Evening Post (2 Aug 1949)/Huddersfield Directory Who’s Who (1937)
⁴Colliery Year Book and Coal Trades Directory (1945)
⁵The Gazette (Mar 1976)

Rockwood House,
Barnsley Road, Denby Dale, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, HD8 8XF

GLEDHOW HALL

Gledhow Hall, Leeds
Gledhow Hall is now private flats, retaining many original period features including a stained glass ceiling in one of the properties, as well as ornamental tiled floors, fireplaces and columns.


Built: c1766
Architect: John Carr
Private apartments
Grade II* listed

House and Heritage features a guest post from Michael E. Reed on the history of Gledhow Hall,  Leeds, and its Royal connections.

Michael E. Reed (b.1964)  studied Art History at  Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He has taught English, History, Music and Drama  at various Melbourne colleges for many years and has worked as a performer – particularly  in theatre, opera and as a band singer. Reed has written for the UK Guardian  regarding  the Duchess of Cambridge’s family  connections with art and architecture.  He has worked as a researcher for other leading  UK newspapers including the Telegraph, the Express and the Daily Mail.

Reed lives  in Melbourne in an Arts and Crafts house with his wife and daughter.

The Middleton family and GLEDHOW HALL, LEEDS
Gledhow Hall, in Leeds, is still standing sentinel and today houses several luxury flats. Yet few are aware that the Hall and the Gledhow area itself is intrinsically linked with the family of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Gledhow Hall is on Gledhow Lane at its junction with Gledhow Wood Road. The land was originally monastic and was purchased from Queen Elizabeth I by the Thwaites family. Several notable Yorkshire families have owned the Hall, including the Becketts, the Benyons, the Dixons and the Coopers. The Hall, as seen today, was completed shortly after 1766, by York architect John Carr who had been responsible for Harewood House – the home of Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood, whose niece is Queen Elizabeth II.

Gledhow Hall architect John Carr of York
Gledhow Hall – the work of architect John Carr of York.

Between 1812 and 1815, J.M.W. Turner sketched the view of Gledhow Hall from across the valley and made a painting. Turner’s painting was inherited by Guy Kitson Nevett, the great grandson of James Kitson who purchased Gledhow Hall in 1885.

JMW Turner Gledhow Hall c1816 enlarged
Joseph Mallord William Turner’s watercolour painting of Gledhow Hall c1816.

Kitson employed Leeds architects Chorley and Connon to extend the hall in the following years and create the impressive hipped slate and lead roofs, balustered parapet, cornices and chamfered quoins. Also evident today are the stone cantilevered stairs, a wrought-iron scrolled balustrade, the mahogany handrail and the partitioned top-lit stair well which still retains eight fine lunette windows. In late 1885, Kitson created a superb Burmantofts ‘Faience’ bathroom in honour of a proposed visit to Gledhow Hall from the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII)

James Kitson was created a baronet in 1886. He was the 1st Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1895 and would be raised to the peerage as Lord Airedale in 1907. When Kitson acquired the Gledhow Hall Estate, some of the land had previously been sold to William Hey who had built the neighbouring Gledhow Wood Estate circa 1860.

The Middleton family connection begins in 1875 when the Gledhow Wood Estate was purchased by German nobleman – Edward, Baron von Schunck – who had married Kate Lupton in 1867. Kate – the daughter of a former Mayor of Leeds – had grown up nearby at her family’s Potternewton Hall Estate, as had her first cousin, Francis Martineau Lupton and his daughter, Olive Middleton who was the great grandmother of Kate Middleton.

Olive Middleton Kate Middletons great grandmother1
Olive Middleton. Kate Middleton’s great grandmother.

In 1890 at Gledhow Wood, Baron von Schunck’s wife hosted the wedding breakfast for her daughter, Florence, and her new son-in-law, Albert Kitson. A prestigious event, Olive’s family were reported as being guests at the wedding; so too, was Herbert Gladstone (later Viscount Gladstone), the prime minister’s son. The great prime minister himself, Gladstone, had also been a visitor to Gledhow Hall.

On March 16, 1911 Albert Kitson inherited the title 2nd Lord Airedale and took ownership of Gledhow Hall. Given that his mother-in-law, Baroness von Schunck, was residing at the adjacent Gledhow Wood Estate, the two estates were re-united as a grand family seat.

Lord and Lady Airedale were invited to pay homage at Westminster Abbey to King George V at his coronation in June 1911. Lady Airedale’s mother, Baroness von Schunck (née Kate Lupton), was also invited. A wealthy woman with a keen interest in the educational provision for women, Baroness von Schunck is listed in Burke’s Peerage Second World War Edition as having died in 1913. The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer reported that amongst her chief mourners were members of Olive Middleton’s family.

Olive Middletons couisn Lady Airedale and her husband Lord Airedale at the 1911 coronation of George V.jpg Edit
Olive Middleton’s cousin Lady Airedale and her husband Lord Airedale at the 1911 coronation of George V.

In 1914, Olive married solicitor Richard Noel Middleton whose grandfather – solicitor William Middleton – had founded the Leeds firm of solicitors, William Middleton and Sons. A gentleman farmer, William Middleton Esq. had also lived in the area at Gledhow Grange Estate.

Gledhow Hall VAD nurses Olive Middleton far right
Gledhow Hall VAD nurses with Olive Middleton on far right.

World War I saw Gledhow Hall being offered by the 2nd Lord Airedale for use as a VAD hospital. Lord and Lady Airedale’s daughter, The Hon. Doris Kitson, was photographed working at her home as a volunteer nurse in 1916; she was mirroring the war efforts of her cousin Olive Middleton – also photographed as a volunteer nurse at Gledhow Hall. Familial ties were strong and we find that Olive’s sister-in-law, VAD nurse Miss Gertrude Middleton, was similarly photographed at Gledhow Hall.  A talented pianist, the Gledhow Hall Concert Programme records Gertrude Middleton  as being an  accompanist at concerts held at her relative’s grand home.

As second cousins, Baroness Airedale and Olive Middleton shared much: apart from their Unitarian faith, both women and their families were much involved with charity work which concerned nursing, social and educational matters. They have no doubt inspired their descendant, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Gledhow Hall as a VAD hospital patients convalescing on lawns
Gledhow Hall as a VAD hospital with patients convalescing on lawns.

Tragically, all three of Olive Middleton’s brothers were killed in World War I. Various memorials are found to honour the brothers at the Leeds Mill Hill Chapel, Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge and St. John’s Church, Roundhay.

Coatofarms of Baron Airedale as seen above stairwell at Gledhow Hall
Coat of arms of Baron Airedale as seen above the stairwell at Gledhow Hall.

By 1923, Gledhow Hall had come into the possession of the City of Leeds. Noel Middleton died in 1951, his wife Olive having passed away in 1936. Baroness Airedale died in 1942.

Gledhow Hall reminds us that a manor house can hold memories both celebratory and glamorous in nature yet also contain within its walls stories of enormous human heartbreak.

Gledhow Hall,
Gledhow Wood Close, Leeds LS8 1PG

DUNSLEY HALL

Dunsley Hall (Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel)
Dunsley Hall. Built in 1900 for Frederick Haigh Pyman, a man dedicated to the sea


Built: 1900
Owner: Wood and Stone Developments Ltd
Country house hotel

There is a certain mystery about Dunsley Hall. This late Victorian building is prominently situated in the small hamlet of Newholm-cum-Dunsley, a few miles outside Whitby. It offers distant sea views which made it an idyllic spot for Frederick Haigh Pyman to build his holiday home back in 1900. Its location at the heart of the village rather flew in the face of his contemporaries who were much happier hiding away from prying country folk.  Today, it sits blissfully beside a handful of cottages, a former chapel and the odd farmstead, altogether the perfect rural setting.

To understand why he chose Dunsley we must first look at his family background. Frederick Haigh Pyman (1858-1932) was the seventh child of George Pyman (1822-1900) of Sandsend, a small fishing village close to Whitby.

George Pyman (The Pyman Story)
George Pyman (1822-1900) (The Pyman Story)

At the age of ten George Pyman joined the family fishing boat and immediately developed a competency for the sea. By the time he was 21 he was captain but had far greater ambitions. He married Elizabeth English (1821-1893) in 1843 at Whitby Parish Church but realised that money could be made elsewhere. He uprooted his young family to West Hartlepool in 1850 and started a new career as a ship-chandler going into partnership with Thomas Scurr and later setting up a business with his brother-in-law, Francis English.

Pyman and Scurr later became ship brokers and coal fitters for the Weardale Coal Company and operated several collier briggs. After Thomas Scurr died in 1861 George continued to run the company which became George Pyman & Co. He moved into steamships and accumulated significant wealth allowing him to diversify into timber, farming and coal mining. However, it was the intricate web that George developed in shipping that provided his biggest assets. He became the largest steam-ship owner in the north east, was elected a Poor Law Guardian for West Hartlepool in 1861, an Improvement Commissioner in 1868, and became a Justice for the Peace for Durham in 1872. He was even appointed Vice-Consul for Belgium in 1879.

With two daughters and seven sons it was not surprising that his offspring would use his fortune to set up similar ventures around the country. George retired to Raithwaite Hall at Sandsend in 1882 and died in 1900. He left a substantial fortune of £135,000 as well as Raithwaite Hall, Moss Brow House and significant agricultural land around Whitby and Sandsend.

Frederick Haigh Pyman, his sixth son, was born in West Hartlepool in 1856. He was typical of George’s sons and, along with his brother Francis, set up Pyman Brothers in London in 1882 and later the London & Northern Steamship Company.

Frederick Haigh Pyman (The Pyman Story)
Frederick Haigh Pyman (1856-1932) ( Pyman Story)

In 1885 he married Blanche Gray (1862-1896), the daughter of William Gray, a family friend and extremely successful shipbuilder from West Hartlepool. Between them they had ten children and it is likely that Blanche died during the birth of Blanche Gray Pyman in 1896.  Three years later Frederick married Edith Mary Browning and would go on to have another three children. They chose to live in Enfield and later at 82 Fitzjohns Avenue in Hampstead.

While spending most of his year attending to business in London Frederick was eager to own a holiday home. In 1900 he chose a plot of family-owned land at Dunsley which stretched almost to Raithwaite Hall at Sandsend. It is not without possibility that Dunsley hall was built on part of the original Home Farm estate. Indeed, early maps suggest an older property stood on the site with the most likely use being a farmstead.

The architect is unknown but it is likely that the original property was smaller than appears today. The modest house was built of stone with two stories and an attic in Y-shaped fashion. The rear of the property stood higher while the unassuming main entrance was at the side of the property where a date stone is still visible above the door. Without doubt the masterpiece of the house would have been its unsymmetrical north prospect with then unobstructed views of the sea. Its three bays, containing the family rooms, led onto a small terrace with descending steps into the formal gardens.

Dunlsey Hall (The Pyman Story)
The family rooms had north facing sea views towards Sandsend (The Pyman Story)

Throughout the house was oak panelling hand-crafted by ships’ carpenters. According to legend the same craftsmen who worked here went on to do the interiors for the Titanic².

Without doubt the pinnacle of today’s house is the lounge. This may have originally been the drawing room or even used as a library. However, its grandeur suggests that this was once a room designed to impress and would have been used for entertaining.

Two features exist that make it one of the most remarkable rooms.
The first is a stained glass window depicting a classic seascape – obviously commissioned by a sea-faring person – and providing privacy from the village lane outside. The second is an inglenook fireplace, quite magnificent, with green tiles and marble surround. It is encased with carved oak and crowned with the Pyman coat-of-arms awarded to Frederick’s father.

Stained Glass Window at Dunsley Hall (House and Heritage)
The original stained-glass window with maritime scene (House and Heritage)
Fireplace at Dunsley Hall (House and Heritage)
The Victorian fireplace with family coat-of-arms above (House and Heritage)

The coat-of-arms appears almost Arabesque suggesting connections with far-off exotic places. However, according to a family descendent, who uses a later version of the family crest for the Pyman Pâté company it is rather glorified:-

“It was first matriculated in the 1880s for my great-great-great Grandfather George Pyman. The most striking feature of the coat of arms is the ‘savage affrontee proper garlanded about the loins and temples holding in the dexter hand a scroll’. During the nineteenth century the College of Arms seems to have been the habit of granting savages to those with business in foreign part – hence also the crescent and the stars. That George Pyman mainly did his business in Europe and around the British coast seems to be taking this somewhat to excess. It has met with slightly ribald comment from the family over the years.”³

Frederick Pyman was an enterprising man all but forgotten today. We can determine that he was particularly fond of singing, and a vocalist of no mean ability. He was a J.P., would become a Chairman of the London Chamber of Shipping, Commodore of the Whitby Regatta, a President of the Whitby Yacht Club (he kept his yacht ‘Stalwart’ at Whitby), and of Whitby United Football Club. In his later he years he, along with his brother Walter Herbert Septimus Pyman (1858-1931), was responsible for the reconstruction of the Pyman Institute at Sandsend, built on the site of their father’s birthplace.¹.

Frederick named one of his new ships for the London & Northern Steamship Company after Dunsley Hall. The steamship Dunsley was built in 1913 but had a short life. It was travelling from Liverpool to Boston when it was torpedoed off the south coast of Ireland in 1915. Newspapers report that it was hit by U-24, the same submarine that had already sunk the White Star liner SS Arabic. Pyman’s boat managed to stay afloat and rescue a number of the liner’s passengers. Two crewman from Dunsley were killed but we can assume that the rest of the crew and the Arabic survivors were transferred to safety before the ship plummeted to the depths.⁴

Dunsley 1913 (Hartlepool Ships & Shipping)
The steamship Dunsley named after Pyman’s holiday home (Hartlepool Ships & Shipping)

Frederick Pyman’s year followed a fairly predictable pattern. The winter would be spent attending to business at Mountgrove, his London town house, at Fitzjohns Avenue. During the summer he would relocate the family to his much-loved Dunsley Hall.

It was here, in the summer of 1932, aged 74, that he was taken seriously ill and died. He left £270,132 and properties to his family. Most interesting was that he put aside £2,000 to be distributed amongst his servants and employees.⁵

F.H. Pyman at Dunsley with eight of his children (The Pyman Story)
Frederick Haigh Pyman at Dunsley with eight of his children (The Pyman Story)

On his death the Dunsley Hall estate passed to a consortium of his eldest children. The most likely summer resident was Captain Frederick Creswell Pyman (1889-1966), the managing director of William Gray and Co Ltd, the West Hartlepool shipbuilders. He lived with his wife and children at Oval Grange in West Hartlepool and served with the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment in World War One.

In 1944 the whole of the Dunsley Hall estate was put up for sale by the executors. It comprised 728 acres and described Dunsley Hall as “a modern residence with luxurious and up-to-date equipment placed in a sunny and sheltered position with Mulgrave Woods to the North and commanding views over Sandsend and Whitby”.

The sale also included six farms, including Home Farm.

“The principal feature of the estate (apart from the beauty of its situation) is the excellence of the farm buildings. The late owner was not so much concerned with rental as with contented tenants and pride in a particularly well ordered estate, and the substantial comfortable and spacious character of the various steadings reflects this attitude to a remarkable degree, and entirely removes the usual anxieties of a Purchaser as to heavy repair and future capital expenditure”.⁶

In the end the estate was purchased privately by Frederick Pyman’s children with only a handful of outlying lots offered for sale.

Frederick Creswell Pyman (The Pyman Story)
Frederick Creswell Pyman shown with his first cousin

According to authors Peter Hogg and Harold Appleyard in their book The Pyman Story the family owned Dunsley Hall and its farms until 1949.  Legatees, led by Frederick Creswell Pyman, sold the estate to a Leeds businessman. This was likely to have been Arthur Stockdale who, along with other farmers, had formed Hindell Dairy Farmers Ltd and its subsidiary Craven Dairies Ltd. In 1949 Hindells, along with other dairies, bakers and butchers, combined to form a new company called Associated Dairies and Farm Stores Ltd. This new company expanded their business across Yorkshire and the north east and the Dunsley Estate would have been an easy acquisition. This business would eventually become the supermarket chain ASDA.

Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel in 2015 (House and Heritage)
Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel, pictured in 2016 (House and Heritage)

Dunsley Hall became isolated from the rest of its estate but survived under several different owners. During the seventies and eighties it appeared to have suffered from an identity crisis. The house was obviously expensive to maintain and the building was sub-divided into flats for a time. A number of changes of use were proposed. In 1978 it was granted planning permission to convert the main building into a school while, in the same year, was refused consent for conversion into a country club. Not to be deterred the owners applied for change of use from flats to a hotel. Once again this application was rejected by the North Yorkshire Moors National Park⁷.

Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel (House and Heritage)
North and east facing elevations of the 1900 house (House and Heritage)

Dunsley Hall’s recovery came in 1995 when it was acquired by William and Carol Ward. Their persistence with  planners resulted in the house becoming the Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel with significant, but sympathetic changes, to the interiors and the creation of a new bedroom block.

The business flourished for many years but suffered in the nadir of the economic recession. The year 2014 is regarded as the one where financial hardship finally hit the hospitality industry. It must have been a catastrophic day when the hotel was forced to call in administrators and all the hard work lost.

Happily, but not without irony, the house was bought by Wood and Stone Developments in 2015. With challenges overcome by others the hotel once again appears to be thriving with plans for further refurbishment afoot.

Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel 1 (House and Heritage)
Dunsley Hall seen from the road. The house is at the centre of the village (House and Heritage)

Other children of Frederick Haigh Pyman:-

Frederick had thirteen children across two marriages. Apart from Frederick Creswell Pyman the most notable were his eldest son William Haigh Pyman (1887-1983) who became a director of Pyman Brothers. Margaret Joyce Pyman (1891-1986) married John Campbell Boot, the son of Sir Jesse Boot of Nottingham, in 1914. They would later become Lord and Lady Trent. Lieutenant Alan Pyman (1895-1915) was killed by a bullet while serving with the 3rd Yorkshire Regiment at Givenchy in France.

References:-
¹Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (18 Jul 1932)
²Yorkshire Post (4 Mar 2009)
³Pyman Pâtés (http://pymanpates.co.uk/home/pyman-family-crest/)
⁴Stevens Point Daily Journal, Wisconsin (20 Aug 1915)
⁵Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (17 Oct 1932)
⁶Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (18 Jul 1944)
⁷Planning applications to the North Yorkshire Moors National Park

Further Reading:-
‘The Pyman Story – Fleet and Family History’ by Peter Hogg and Harold Appleyard (2000)

Dunsley Hall,
Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 3TL

POTTERNEWTON HALL

potternewton-hall-3
Potternewton Hall, Leeds.

Built about 1720.  Demolished in 1934-1935

A group of history students in Australia claim to have uncovered evidence that the Duchess of Cambridge’s family once had links to a forgotten stately home near Leeds.

olive-middleton
Olive Lupton

Art historian Michael Reed, of Hallam College in Melbourne, and his students discovered that the Duchess’s great-grandmother, Olive Lupton, was born and grew up on the Potternewton Hall Estate near Leeds.

The story is not exactly new as there were reports of her Yorkshire connection as far back as 2006. Her great-grandfather, Noel Middleton, married Olive Lupton, the daughter of Francis Martineau Lupton, one of a number of the Lupton family who were influential in Leeds throughout much of the 19th century and up until the mid-20th-century. The Lupton family have been described as ‘Landed Gentry; a business and political dynasty.’

More interesting is the Duchess of Cambridge’s connection with Potternewton Hall – long gone – but once one of several country houses in the area – Potternewton Park Mansion, Newton Lodge and Scott Hall.

Potternewton Hall stood on land once owned by the Earl of Mexborough. In the early 1700s the Barker family bought a large parcel of land and around 1720 built the three-storey country house.  From 1860 the family had split their estate and sold Potternewton Hall along with 13 acres to Frank Lupton, a wool merchant and mill owner, and the father of politician Francis Martineau Lupton. The Lupton family had been landowners since the 18th century and Frank’s brother, Arthur Lupton, a wool merchant in the family firm, owned the adjacent Newton Hall Estate. Arthur had nurtured ideas for subdivisions on his adjoining estates since the 1850’s and in 1870 decided to sell Newton Hall to Frank and his other brother, Darnton Lupton. Darnton had lived at Potternewton Hall from the 1830’s and had been Mayor of Leeds in 1844.

By the end of the 19th-century the Luptons did not live at Potternewton Hall. The house was now lived in by the Nussey family who are likely to have taken out a long lease and remained there until 1933.

In 1910, the New Briggate Development Company bought half the shares in the Lupton-owned estates and after World War One, with the demand for housing increasing, came the realisation they were sitting on a potential cash windfall.

By 1927 the estates had been sold to United Newspapers who were investing in new markets. The sale of land, and a hefty profit, was obviously their motive because, in 1933, Potternewton Hall was being advertised for sale as “valuable building land”. The Yorkshire Post was already reporting that the Newton Hall Estate was “the largest private building enterprise in Leeds”.

Potternewton Hall was bought by Max Rabinovitch, a wholesale jeweller, of Nassau Place, in Chapeltown. The house and 13 acres had clearly been bought for redevelopment.  Just over twelve months later Potternewton Hall and 5 acres at the front was sold for a hefty loss to Pickard and Co, a Leeds building contractor, who confirmed they would demolish the house and build on the land.

By 1935 both Potternewton Hall and Newton Hall had vanished and the land further sub-divided. At the outbreak of World War Two a new housing development, Riviera Gardens, flat-roofed white painted houses, had replaced the house and surrounding gardens.

Following the demolition of Potternewton Hall a York antiques dealer, G.F. Greenwood, offered for sale old panelling from Potternewton Hall. Much of this is lost but some was bought by Lt Col Gowans and reassembled at Sutton Park, Sutton-on-the-Forest, as a morning room

sutton-park-morning-room
Sutton Park, Yorkshire

While Leeds may not have played a major part in the Duchess of Cambridge’s life she does have a strong connection. Michael Middleton, her father, spent his first two years (until the age of two) living at Moortown in Leeds.

Olive’s cousin, Baroness von Schunck (née Kate Lupton), also spent her early years with Olive’s family at Potternewton Hall. In fact, Baroness von Schunck’s daughter, Baroness Airedale, lived on the nearby estate – Gledhow Hall – which was once painted by J.M.W. Turner.

kate-2_2596932c
Beechwood, Yorkshire

Undoubtedly, the Lupton’s were a very distinguished family. Olive Middleton’s two uncles were both Lord Mayors of Leeds – Sir Charles Lupton in 1915 and his brother Hugh Lupton in 1926. Her cousin, Miss Elinor Lupton, was Lady Mayoress in 1943 in her own right. Apart from Potternewton Hall and Newton Hall, the Lupton’s owned a large number of grand houses in the area. These included Beechwood, in Roundhay, Mount Pleasant in Harehills and The Acacia on Oakwood Garden. Beechwood was a Georgian mansion on a large farming estate. It was purchased by Frank Lupton, Olive Middleton’s grandfather, in 1860 and eventually became the Lupton family seat. It stayed in the family until 1998. Much of the Beechwood farming land had been sold by the 1950’s to create a large council estate.

HAZLEWOOD CASTLE

hazlewood-castle-1
Built:  Late 13th century with later additions in at least three stages
Owner:  Ashdale Hotels
Country house hotel
Grade I listed

Late C13 origins. Later additions and alterations in at least 3 stages including C15 tower and refurbishing of interior c1760 attributed to John Carr. Further restorations and rebuilding c1960 for Donald Hart and c1980 for Carmelite Friars. Dressed magnesian limestone with concrete additions and concealed Welsh slate and lead roof. Approximately H-shaped on plan. 2 storeys and basement, 5 bays arranged 2:2:5:2:2 with bays 2 and 4 breaking forward. (Historic England)

The approach to Hazlewood Castle meanders away from the busy A64, which runs between Leeds and York, and suddenly you emerge in a state of stillness. The building is not a castle in the traditional sense but is a succession of intelligent later additions. The front approach is typical country house but is heightened by battlements. The turret towers provide the evidence that this has been a cared-for building under successive owners.

A visit off-season, when visitors are few, makes it the proverbial haunted house with chilling stone dominance, ornamental fireplaces, gloomy panelled interiors and creaking floorboards. St Leonard’s Chapel stands serenely alongside to remind us of the castle’s religious pedigrees.

The story of Hazlewood Castle is one of a house rather than a castle. The Vavasour family lived here for 900 years with its earliest roots in Norman times. The Doomsday Book of 1086 gave it a mention and the devoutly Catholic Vavasours added priest holes in the turret tower and an underground passage to nearby Crossroads Farm. This was an attempt to protect practising priests – and certain death – from Henry VIII’s stand against the Roman Catholic church.

In common with many country houses at the start of the twentieth century Hazlewood Castle suffered with declining estate income. The family mortgaged heavily to generate cash and ended up with debts of £12,000. This resulted with Sir William Vavasour selling the castle in 1908. He moved his family to the Awatere Valley in New Zealand where they founded vineyards and a long tradition of wine making.

Hazlewood Castle  was bought by Edward Simpson, a solicitor, who remained there until 1953. During his tenure he added a front terrace and new entrance to the Great Hall (a medieval window was discovered here). Electricity was introduced in 1950-51. Between 1939 and 1953 part of the house was requisitioned by the Ministry of Health as a maternity hospital. Despite its remote location it proved popular with the ladies of Leeds and York who loved its rural surroundings. It is estimated that there were around 5,000 births over fourteen years. Simpson’s wife took an interest in the hospital but, on her death in 1951, an adjustment was needed on the existing lease which expired in 1953. A purchase was rejected by the health authority and the hospital closed its doors in June 1953.

hazlewood-castle-2
Richard Fawcett, a wealthy local farmer, bought the castle in 1953 and is featured, with his wife, proudly showing Hazlewood Castle off to Country Life readers in two articles that appeared in December 1957. Fawcett’s stay lasted just five years and in 1958 the house was up for sale again.

The purchaser this time was Donald Hart who had ambitions for Hazlewood Castle to become a retreat and pilgrimage centre. He later arranged with the Bishop of Leeds for it to become just that but it would be 1971 before it opened.  To avoid gift taxes the estate was bought by the Carmelite Friars but Hart was allowed to remain until his death the following year.

The retreat closed in 1996 and was sold to Brian and Andrea Walker who converted it into a luxury hotel. After extensive conversion it opened the following October with celebrity chef John Benson-Smith highlighting the importance of fine cuisine to its guests. It soon became a major wedding and conference venue but, according to Living North Magazine, it ‘wasn’t an unqualified success, with the heavy emphasis on quality cuisine deflecting from the castle’s other myriad charms’.

hazlewood-castle-3
It was these charms that Ashdale Hotels, who purchased Hazlewood Castle in 2008, were keen to play upon. Publicity for the hotel tells tales of hauntings and spectral figures. There are even black cats looming out of dark corners. Throughout the hotel guests are reminded of its past with discreetly placed notices that would not look amiss in a National Trust property. It now contains 21 bedroom suites, 6 function rooms and the Great Hall holds 150 people.

Hazlewood Castle
Paradise Lane,
Hazlewood, Nr Leeds & York, North Yorkshire, LS24 9NJ