Category Archives: YORKSHIRE

ACKTON HALL

A house with a fine reputation and family links to Nostell Priory. The advent of the industrial revolution altered its history and eventual loss.

Ackton Hall - AA Lamb
Ackton Hall, Featherstone. A rare photograph of the house in better times. A.A. LAMB.

According to Eilert Ekwall, in ‘The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names’, the name of ‘Ackton’ refers to an ‘oak-tree farmstead’. This appears far-removed these days, and a far cry from those days of the Victorian industrial revolution when Ackton was at the forefront of coal production. The hamlet grew up between Wakefield and Pontefract, then in the West Riding, but it was Ackton Hall that became the focal point for the area.

The first mention of Ackton Hall appears to have been in the Featherstone Parish Register in 1570, belonging to the Frost family and later passing by marriage to the Beckwiths, who sold it in 1652 to Langdale Sutherland for a price said to be £5,000.¹

The Winn family
The mansion passed to Edward Winn, the younger son of the second baronet of Nostell Priory, binding the two country houses together. Ackton Hall passed to his heir, Thomas Winn (1714-1780), who inherited a much larger house in 1765. Thomas married Mary Duncalf, daughter of Humphrey Duncalf, in 1753, and his only child was Edmund Mark Winn (1762-1833).²

The family of Winn was descended from a cadet of the house of Gwydir, who left Wales in the sixteenth century and settled in London. The immediate ancestor of this branch was George Winn, draper to Queen Elizabeth, who had issue Edmund Winn, of Thornton Curtis in Lincolnshire, who died in 1615, having married Mary, daughter of Rowland Berkeley of Worcester, sister to Sir Robert Berkeley, Knt, one of the Judges of the King’s Bench, by whom he had three sons.

George Winn, the eldest son and heir, whose residence was at Nostell Priory, was created a baronet by King Charles II in 1660. The title passed down the line until Sir Rowland Winn, High Sheriff of Yorkshire  in 1799, who died unmarried in 1803. The title was then devolved upon his cousin, Edmund Mark Winn of Ackton Hall.³

Ackton Hall - The Featherstone Chronicle
Ackton Hall, Featherstone. The date on this photograph is unknown. The house was rebuilt in 1765. THE FEATHERSTONE CHRONICLE.

History portrays Sir Edmund Mark Winn as “a truly worthy country gentleman, with all the politeness of the ancient school, and all the consideration of the kind landlord.” ⁴ He died unmarried in 1833 and Ackton Hall passed to his niece, Mary, eldest daughter of Colonel Duroune of the Coldstream Guards.

She had married Arthur Heywood (1786-1851), the son of Benjamin Heywood of Stanley Hall, in 1825. The Heywood family were descended from Nathaniel Heywood who settled in Drogheda. He had three sons, Arthur, Benjamin and Nathaniel, who all returned to England.

Arthur Heywood Snr, settled at Liverpool and, with his brother Benjamin, founded a bank, Heywood and Co, and by his second wife Hannah, daughter of Richard Milnes of Wakefield, a principal member of a distinguished Non-Conforming family, had four sons, two of whom settled at Liverpool and two at Wakefield.  Neither of the Liverpool sons had children, but Benjamin Heywood of Stanley Hall left a son, Arthur Heywood, who became Mary’s husband.⁵

The death of Arthur Heywood in 1851 was arguably the end for Ackton Hall as a rural mansion. His widow, Mary, remained until her death at Great Malvern in 1863. The estate was put up for sale and the sale catalogue describes the hall as an attractive stone built mansion on a moderate scale seated on a hillside and surrounded by a richly wooded and undulating country.

“Extending on the south and east is a tract of rich park-like land studded with noble oak and other trees of large growth and great beauty. The lawn and pleasure grounds slope gently to the south-west and are well-arranged with retired shrubbery and shaded walks embracing extensive views over luxuriant meadows and a magnificent country.

“In the ground floor are the entrance hall, inner hall, dining, drawing and morning rooms, and a library. On the first floor are a drawing-room and two large bedrooms, and on the second floor are another five bedrooms and three servants’ rooms. There are two water closets. Outside is a stable yard with accommodation for ten horses, a double coach house, a dovecote and farm buildings for the 42 acre farm. There are two kitchen gardens, a conservatory and a vinery, and the hall also has its own spring water supply.”¹

Despite the best efforts of the sales catalogue to find an occupant there was no chance that the hall was going to retain its charm.

Ackton Hall - Yorkshire (Featherstone in Pictures)
Ackton Hall, Featherstone. The mansion was later converted into flats. FEATHERSTONE IN PICTURES.


George Bradley and the price of coal
The surrounding area was now ripe for industrialisation, and coal was the valued prize for ambitious entrepreneurs. The Ackton Hall estate was bought by George Bradley, of the Castleford firm of Bradley and Sons, Solicitors, who had seen the potential for exploiting the mineral assets of the land. It is suggested that he bought the hall and estate in 1865 for £23,400, with another £20,300 used to buy additional land. The cash was borrowed from the University Life Assurance Society, a transaction he would later regret.

Before arriving at Ackton Hall he had been living with his father at Leeds. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1853, but his practice had gradually dwindled due to falling business. As well as the Ackton Hall estate, he later purchased freehold land in Essex, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Yorkshire.

Initially, George Bradley leased Ackton Hall land to John Shaw†, who opened a colliery called Featherstone Main that soon became the largest pit in England. Encouraged by Shaw’s success, Bradley sank two of his own shafts to the Stanley Main Seam and opened his own colliery called Featherstone Manor. It was later extended to the Warren House Seam and at its peak was extracting about 200 tons each day.⁶

“The next and future returns cannot fail to give a much larger quantity, seeing that several very important estates with large areas of coal are now being opened out.” Sheffield Independent. 2 April 1870.

However, George Bradley’s coal-mining aspirations were hindered by lack of finance. In 1888, his dream ended when a writ was issued by the High Sheriff of Yorkshire on Ackton Hall. Bradley had been living in the mansion, but mounting debts were leading him into trouble.  His miners hadn’t been paid, he had defaulted on payment of rates and more importantly, he was behind on mortgage payments.

Ackton Hall north side - Featherstone in Pictures
The north side of Ackton Hall in happier times. FEATHERSTONE IN PICTURES.
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - 9 Aug 1890 - BNA
A sale notice from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 9 August 1890. THE BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE.


Samuel Cunliffe Lister, Lord Masham
In the summer of 1890, it was rumoured that Messrs Lister and Co, of Manningham Mills, near Bradford, had purchased the Ackton Hall estate, including the Manor Colliery, adjoining Featherstone Station on the Wakefield branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. The estate had been due to go to public auction, but the sale by private treaty was believed to have been £180,000.⁷

In the end, it turned out that the estate had been bought in a private capacity by Samuel Cunliffe Lister, and not on behalf of the shareholders of the company. He had bought the greater part of the estate, about 1,200 acres, and carried with it all the mineral rights. George Bradley could remain at Ackton Hall and kept some adjoining land, but the mineral rights right under the house had been acquired by Mr Lister. According to the Yorkshire Post, the output from the Ackton Colliery had been comparatively small owing to the want of development, but now that the property had come into the hands of a man of such well-known enterprise and energy as Mr Cunliffe Lister, a guarantee was at once forthcoming that a great change in this respect would shortly take place.”⁸

Ackton Hall Colliery - Author Unknown
Ackton Hall Colliery. It became a thriving colliery under Lord Masham. AUTHOR UNKNOWN.

Samuel Cunliffe Lister was one of the largest landowners in the North Riding, and in the previous nine years had expanded upwards of three-quarters of a million in purchasing the Swinton Park estate, near Masham, from the heirs of Mrs Danby-Vernon-Harcourt, Jervaulx Abbey from Lord Ailesbury’s trustees, and the Middleham Castle property, which he had bought a few months previous.

In time, George Bradley moved to Rectory House in Castleford and was declared bankrupt in 1897. The following year, the conveyance for Ackton Hall passed to Mr Middleton of Leeds, a transaction that was later brought before West Riding magistrates. In January 1906, four Leeds men were charged with having stolen a quantity of lead from Ackton Hall. It was also stated that the defendants had also engaged in removing furniture from the mansion. Thomas Middleton, a Leeds jeweller, told the court that he and his brother were the owners of the hall as trustees under their father’s will. Middleton stated that the defendants did not have permission to remove the lead. However, the case was most unusual due to the fact he claimed George Bradley had never asserted that he had a right to live at the hall, neither did he set up a right to the property. He said his father had taken possession of Ackton Hall after advancing George Bradley money. The case of theft was dropped due to insufficient evidence, but the affairs of George Bradley appeared ever more curious.⁹

Ackton Hall Colliery - Healey Hero (1)
The colliery took its name from the grand old mansion. HEALEY HERO.

The acquisition of Ackton Hall by Samuel Cunliffe Lister (1815-1906) was purely for commercial reasons. He was a rich man, born at Calverley Hall,  the son of Ellis Cunliffe Lister-Kaye, who had assumed the name of Lister on taking possession of the Manningham estate, near Bradford, under the will of Mr Samuel Lister of Manningham Mill.

He was one of the greatest Victorian industrialists, a man who went against his family’s wishes to enter the church and started out in the counting house of Messrs Sands, Turner and Co in Liverpool.

Samuel Cunliffe Lister - Lord Masham - NPG
Samuel Cunliffe Lister, 1st Baron Masham (1815 – 1906). NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY.

On attaining his majority, young Lister prevailed upon his eldest brother to enter the worsted spinning and manufacturing business at Manningham, where their father erected a mill for them. It was here that the attention of the future was directed to the problem of machine wool combing, which at that time was in the embryonic stage. Failures to construct an efficient machine wool-comb had been so numerous that any idea of an invention capable of supplanting the labours of hand-combers was regarded as a major obstacle.

Samuel Cunliffe Lister, however, was of a different opinion, and, finding that a machine upon which an inventor named Donisthorpe was working, although at the time in a very imperfect state, gave the greatest promise of success, he bought the machine for a good round sum, and then taking Mr Donisthorpe into partnership, set himself to work out the idea of the apparatus. In this task the partners succeeded after years of labour and the expenditure of many thousands of pounds. The success of the invention practically placed the wool-combing industry for a time in Mr Cunliffe Lister’s own hands, although to begin with he had to encounter litigation in connection with his patents.

This was typical of the man and during his lifetime patented over a hundred inventions which revolutionised the silk and wool trade; to carry out his ideas, he spent a fortune of £600,000 and was more than once on the brink of ruin. In due course, however, the patents brought in a great financial harvest, and for some years before the Manningham Mills were floated as a company, the average net profit was £2 million a year.

Few men lived a life of steadier application to business, and on one occasion he publicly stated that for twenty-five years, he was never in bed later than five o’clock in the morning.

Ackton Hall Colliery - My Featherstone Collieries
By 1924, Ackton Hall Colliery was at its peak employing 1,940 men underground and 636 on the surface. MY FEATHERSTONE COLLIERIES.

It was characteristic of the man that he should not care for public honours, and probably none of his intimate acquaintances were surprised when he declined to accept a baronetcy on the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1877. The Peerage was not conferred until 1891, when the veteran inventor was in his seventy-sixth year.¹⁰

In addition to investing large sums in landed property, the new Lord Masham successfully turned his attention to the working of collieries. He ploughed significant amounts of money into Ackton Hall Colliery and it soon became one of the most successful pits in the country. He began to provide social facilities and housing for the miners, and the new town of Featherstone was developed in the field between Ackton and Purston as a mining town with good quality housing and social services.¹¹

However, in this industry he had an unfortunate experience with his workpeople, and it was remembered that in the dispute in the coal trade in 1893 the military fired on rioters who were destroying property at the Ackton Pit Colliery.*

Ackton Hall Map - NLS
NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND.
Ackton Hall Map - NLS 1
The old map shows the site of Ackton Hall. The house and colliery have long since disappeared. The modern-day satellite image shows that the site of the house has now been grassed over. GOOGLE MAPS.

Decline and fall
The rise of Ackton Hall Colliery also led to the demise of the mansion. Its proximity to the workings rendered it undesirable, the views obscured by the workings,  and it was eventually split into flats. The new town of Featherstone quickly developed in the field between Ackton and Purston but, by 1969, the mansion had become so dilapidated that it had to be demolished.¹²

Ackton Colliery was the first pit to close following the end of the 1984-1985 national miners’ strike.

Ackton Hall before demolition - Featherstone in Pictures
Ackton Hall in a derelict condition that inevitably led to its demolition. FEATHERSTONE IN PICTURES.

Notes: –
† John Shaw (1843-1911), of Welburn Hall, Kirby Moorside, colliery proprietor, chairman of the South Kirkby, Featherstone, and Hemsworth collieries. Three times unsuccessful Conservative candidate for Pontefract, who died in 1911, only son of George Shaw of Brook Leys, Sheffield.

He went to Featherstone with his father in 1866, to open out the coal field. Subsequently the South Kirkby collieries were acquired, and in 1906 the Hemsworth collieries were added. The company became known as South Kirkby, Featherstone and Hemsworth Collieries Ltd. For some time, he lived at Newland Hall, near Normanton, but soon after he removed to Darrington Hall where he remained until about 1896, when he went to live at Welburn.

*In July 1893, a fall in the price of coal led to owners to stockpile output and ‘lock out’ their workers. In Featherstone, workers were increasingly restless and on September 7 rumours spread that coal at Ackton Hall was being loaded onto wagons and then transported to the owner’s mill in Bradford. An angry crowd gathered outside the pit and confronted Mr Holiday (the pit manager) and a work gang that was loading the wagons. Eventually troops were called in. Three officers and 26 men arrived from the First Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment. A local magistrate, Bernard Hartley JP, read the Riot Act. When the crowd didn’t disperse the troops were ordered to fire warning shots. The second volley of shots wounded eight people, two of whom died of their injuries. As a result of the debacle the Liberal Government lost much of its working class support.

¹ The Featherstone Chronicle – A history of Featherstone, Purston and Ackton from 1086 to 1885.
² The Peerage.
³ Leeds Mercury. 13 June 1891.
⁴ Leeds Intelligencer. 22 June 1833.
⁵ ‘The Rise of the Old Dissent, Exemplified in the Life of Oliver Heywood 1630-1702’ by The Rev Joseph Hunter, F.S.A. 1842.
⁶ Featherstone’s Three Collieries.
⁷ Yorkshire Evening Press. 21 June 1890.
⁸ Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 20 August 1890.
⁹ Leeds Mercury. 13 January 1906.
¹⁰ Leeds Mercury. 3 February 1906.
¹¹ Wakefield Council. Featherstone Delivery Plan 2014-2016.
¹² ‘Lost Houses of the West Riding’ by Edward Waterson and Peter Meadows. 1998.

Further reading: –
Featherstones Three Collieries
The Featherstone Chronicle

FEARNVILLE HOUSE

“To all outward appearances the mansion had the appearance of being unoccupied, and the spacious garden was in the same neglected condition as it had been for many years.” One hundred years later, nothing has changed.

Back Shot-min
Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.

This week, one hundred years ago, the discovery of an illicit whisky still in an old mansion gave considerable food for gossip in a Leeds suburb.

The scene of the discovery was the century-old mansion known as Fernville House at Roundhay, which stood in rural splendour until it became overshadowed by what was known as the Fernville ‘Garden City’, a small colony of ‘modern’ residences.

The mansion house (also known as Fearneville) had been built about 1820 by a Leeds merchant, and Thomas Louis Oxley, a surgeon dentist, later lived here, letting about 100 acres of land as a farm.  In the 1870s, the mansion with about 49-acres of pleasure grounds, had been occupied by William Middleton JP, and then Samuel Sykes, after which the estate was sold for development on garden city lines. The last tenant had been Alderman Alfred John Knowles (1836-1918), a well-known Leeds provisions merchant, and for the last ten years or so had been unoccupied.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - 22 June 1867 - BNA
From The Yorkshire Post. June 1867. THE BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE.
Leeds Mercury - 29 Feb 1872 - BNA
A letter from Thomas Louis Oxley in the Leeds Mercury, February 1872. He was now living in London. THE BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE.

In November 1918, negotiations had taken place which resulted in Fernville House being sold for £2,000 to a Jewish businessman, who, it was understood would turn the former country house into a business place. Those who had negotiated the sale had asked what the place was going to be used for, presuming that it would become a clothing factory. The reply had been a definite ‘no’.

The new owner had not been long in taking possession, and it had been understood by some people in the neighbourhood that the house was being used as a laundry. On Saturday 1 February 1919, two officers from the Leeds special police force had seen a large cask being driven away from the house on a cart. They weren’t satisfied with the explanation given as to the contents of the cask, and at midnight a raiding party of special and regular police had taken possession of the house.

The officers came across ample evidence that spirit distilling operations had been conducted here. An attempt had been made to wreck some of the plant, which was unmistakeably a whisky still, and several barrels were removed from the premises.

Neighbours at Fernville House told the Yorkshire Evening Post that no serious attempt had been made to put the mansion into a state fit for habitation. Joiners had been seen doing odd repairs, and to fix a new wooden gate to the entrance which led to outbuildings of the house. To all outward appearances the mansion had the appearance of being unoccupied, and the spacious garden was in the same neglected condition as it had been for many years.

In June 1919, writs were issued by the Commissioners of the Customs and Excise upon Joseph Levi, a wines and spirits merchant, in connection with the illicit whisky still. The total penalties imposed on Levi, his wife, Sarah, and two others amounted to £1,960. (Sarah Levi was again convicted for similar offences in 1930).

Entrance-min
Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.

The events preceded what would turn out to be  a torturous century ahead. One hundred years later, the condition of Fearnville House (as it is now known) is even more precarious than it was then.

During the early part of the twentieth century the Ralphes lived here. The land was sold in the 1950s and the house was converted into flats while still retaining the pillared porch and a fine staircase inside.

Front Door-min
Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.

By the 1970s, the house was again derelict and seemingly abandoned entirely in 1993. The council had evicted its residents, boarded up the building and it has been left ever since. In 2008, it was sold on the instruction of Leeds City Council for £228,000. The following year it was sold again, reputedly to become a nursing home. The last planning application in 2012 was abandoned the following year after various objections, including opposition that the premises would need a long period of observation for bats, along with doubts from the coal board who stated previous mine workings might undermine the property. There was also a further rejection from the council’s Highways Department who said a nearby road would have to be made one-way and restrictions, due to the entrance width, meant the number of dwellings was unsustainable.

Fearnville House is now in perilous condition, its interiors collapsing, and the grounds open to vandals and fly-tippers. Now marooned within housing estates, it has been the subject of frequent visits from urban explorers, who, if nothing else, have at least highlighted the sad state that the once-grand house is now in.

Fearnville House - Bing Maps
‘Swallowed by surburbia.’ Fearnville House, Leeds. Marooned by housing developments. BING MAPS.
Frontal Shot-min
Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.
Roof Beams-min
Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.
Semi Circle-min
Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.
Upstairs Beam-min
Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.

THE FARM

From generation to generation Sheffield has made an annoying habit of destroying some of its most notable buildings and features.

the farm - picture sheffield 1
The Farm once stood in the countryside. It stood in its own grounds where Granville Road and Norfolk Park Road exist today. Nowadays, the site is where the Sheffield Supertram makes a dramatic descent towards the city centre. Image: Picture Sheffield.

‘Lost to suburbia’. Once upon a time, this country house was in idyllic countryside, but the growth of Sheffield as an industrial town quickly devoured it. Its name would turn out to be a contradiction, considering the surroundings it eventually found itself in. Nowadays, it is hard to believe that The Farm ever existed at all, its close proximity to the city centre obliterating every trace of it.

Sheffield once had a dual history, for it was at the same time a town and (eventually) city, and also a great landed estate belonging to the Duke of Norfolk.

the farm c1905-1910
The Farm, Sheffield. This photograph was taken between 1905 and 1910. Apart from his architectural work at Arundel Castle, the 14th Duke of Norfolk built this house on his Sheffield estate.
the farm - picture sheffield 3
The Farm, Sheffield, was a grand house overlooking a picturesque lake with an island. Image: Picture Sheffield.

Dating back to the 18th century, The Farm was rebuilt on an even grander scale in 1824 to provide accommodation for Michael Ellison, local agent for the 12th Duke. Henry Granville Fitzalan Howard (1850-1860), the 14th Duke of Norfolk himself moved to The Farm three decades later, but not before it had been rebuilt once again to the designs of Matthew Ellison Hadfield (nephew of Michael Ellison). It marked a new beginning in the ducal attitude towards Sheffield. As a major landowner he took a close interest in local affairs and was to be in residence for part of every year. A new wing was built, containing the offices.

the farm - picture sheffield 2
The Farm, Sheffield. By the turn of the twentieth century, the Duke of Norfolk owned about fifty thousand acres of estate, chiefly at Arundel and Sheffield, but with smaller estates in Surrey, Norfolk and London. Image: Picture Sheffield.

The Farm contained a square, lead-covered tower ‘with oriel turret stair, surmounted by a lofty vane, and flanked by a grand stack of chimneys’. There was a domestic chapel over the gateway, and the kitchen offices ‘very capacious and complete’. The tower was adorned with figures carved in stone, representing the four rivers – Don, Sheaf, Loxley and Rivelin – which flowed through his estate.

the farm - sheffield history 1920s
The Farm, Sheffield. This map probably dates from the 1920s and shows the layout of the Duke of Norfolk’s property. The railway had cut through its former parkland and roads were already established.

By this time, the tunnel of the Sheffield-Chesterfield railway passed beneath the grounds.

When his son, Henry Fitzalan-Howard (1847-1917), 15th Duke of Norfolk, inherited in the 1870s his estates produced over £100,000 gross per annum and his income increased throughout his life. Over half came from Sheffield, not just from rents but also from mineral rights and the markets, which he owned as lord of the manor until 1899 when he sold them to Sheffield Corporation.

He was a British Unionist politician and philanthropist. He served as Postmaster General between 1895 and 1900, but is best remembered for his philanthropic work, which concentrated on Roman Catholic causes and the City of Sheffield. (He was the first Lord Mayor of Sheffield).

Walker, Hester M., active 1906-1907; Henry Fitzalan-Howard (1847-1917), 15th Duke of Norfolk, Founder and First President of St Edmund's College (1897-1917)
Henry Fitzalan-Howard (1847-1917), 15th Duke of Norfolk. Image: Art UK.
the farm - sheffield history
The Farm, Sheffield. The 1960s. Lost in a cloud of railway smoke. The mansion’s days were numbered. The ‘newly constructed’ Granville College can be seen to the right. The house was raised to the ground as was the college at a later date. Image: Sheffield History.

The Duke of Norfolk’s estates in Sheffield survived until the 1950s, before gradually reverting to the council. After the Duke of Norfolk, the mansion became offices for British Rail Eastern Division, before being demolished in 1967, when the area was used for the building of Granville College. Today the site is occupied by the futuristic City Campus of Sheffield College, but former parkland once adjacent to The Farm, is now known as Norfolk Heritage Park, enjoyed by the public for generations.

the farm - john martin robinsin
The Farm, Sheffield. The house built by the 14th Duke of Norfolk to the designs of M.E. Hadfield. Now demolished. Image: John Martin Robinson.
the farm - my kind of town
The Farm, Sheffield. This photograph from the 1960s shows it hemmed in by the railway and newer developments. Image: My Kind of Town.
the farm - my kind of town 1
The Farm, Sheffield. Inside the palatial mansion when it served as offices for staff of British Rail’s Eastern Division. Image: My Kind of Town.
sheffield_city_college_long_range_view_large
The site of the City Campus of Sheffield College was once The Farm, a mansion in Sheffield, belonging to the Duke of Norfolk. The Sheffield Supertram now sweeps across the landscape.

APLEY GRANGE

50051887_2423421854395964_358752326107791360_n
Apley Grange, Harrogate. It is thought that the house was built for William Sayles Arnold (1858-1915) who moved from Edenfield House in Doncaster. It is likely that the mansion was built by his own building company, Harold Arnold and Son, of Doncaster. Image: Niven Architects.

On this day, one hundred years ago. Apley Grange in Harrogate, was advertised in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. A century later this forgotten mansion reveals a colourful history.

Back in 1919, Apley Grange would have been relatively modern, thought to have been built in 1914 (as Appelby Grange), most likely for Mr William Sayles Arnold (1858-1915) of Edenfield House in Doncaster. Since 1882, he had been the head of Harold Arnold and Son, builders and contractors, one of the largest firms in the North of England. On his death he left estate worth £274,313. 

apley grange - shcj
Apley Grange, with grounds of six acres, was sold by private treaty by Messrs Renton and Renton in June 1930. Image: Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

In the 1920s, it was briefly occupied by Mr Thomas Hartley Seed (1881-1939), of Harper, Seed and Co, ship-brokers and coal exporters of Newcastle. He had suffered significant embarrassment during the Great War when he was found guilty of attempting to sell coal to Germany. He was heavily fined, but went on to become the head of Thomas H Seed & Co, shipowners, based in London, Newcastle and Hull.

Apley Grange was later occupied by the Hon. George Nicholas de Yarburgh-Bateson (1870-1943), the brother of Robert Wilfrid de Yarburgh-Bateson, 3rd Lord Deramore of Belvoir. He later moved to Deighton Grove in York and succeeded to the title on the death of his brother in 1936.

apley grange
Apley Grange now operates as a care home and was extended in 2009. Old pictures of the original house appear elusive, but it is thought that the interiors were Art Deco in design. In 2007, a marble bathroom was removed: ‘Marble steps lead up to the extra long bath which is set into an arched 8ft-wide, 6ft-high alcove lined with a marble design in white and two shades of green, the lighter of which may be the famous Connemara marble which is unique to the west of Ireland and found on some of the world’s great monuments including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Kensington Palace and Trinity College Dublin. The marble design continues around the walls of the bathroom to a matching white marble sink set on a chrome stand’. Image: Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

During the 1930s it became home to John Edward Marshall (1881-1937), the head of Thomas Marshall (Marlbeck) Ltd, women’s gown and mantle manufacturers, of Leeds. Following his death in 1937, he left instructions for 30 dozen bottles of first-class Burgundy to be bought, six dozen of them to be delivered to each of his friends within six months. “In the hope that in consuming it they may often be reminded of the cordial relations which have existed between us.” His widow, Charlotte, remained at Apley Grange, but the house was almost lost when fire partly destroyed the roof the following year.

john edward marshall
John Edward Marshall spent his later years in agriculture and owned farms at Pateley Bridge and Deighton Banks, near Wetherby. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
yorkshire post and leeds intelligencer - 29 nov 1947 - bna
From The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 29 November 1947. Apley Grange was up for sale – ‘one of the finest properties of its kind in the North of England’. Its days as a family home were numbered. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In the late 1940s Apley Grange was sold to the Sisters of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus who used it as classrooms and dormitory for their school in Hookstone Drive, subsequently replaced by St John Fisher Catholic High School, before the community moved into the house. Happily, the house still survives under their ownership and is known as Apley Grange Nursing Home, providing personal and nursing care for up to 42 members.

apley grange 1 - niven architects
Modern-day interiors at Apley Grange. In March 1938, hot soot, falling onto a wooden rain gutter, caused flames to work inwards under the roof. The fire had burned for some time because the whole of the roof rafters had become charred and flames had burned through the ceiling of a second storey room. Image: Niven Architects.
apley grange 2 - niven architects
Apley Grange now operates as a care home. Many of the interiors have been lost, but there are still some traces of the original decor. Image: Niven Architects.

SCARCROFT LODGE

The fact that this mansion has been the subject of a recent planning application for retirement accommodation has put the former country house back into the spotlight after being ‘lost’ for over 70 years.

Scarcroft Lodge - Leeds Mercury - 19 June 1907 - BNA
Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, West Yorkshire. This image is from the Leeds Mercury in June 1907. It was the residence of Lady Mary Savile, who was acting as hostess to the Spanish Princess, the Infanta Eulalie, aunt of the King of Spain. The Princess had visited Leeds and had gone about the country in a quiet, unostentatious way that had won the respect of all with whom she had come into contact. She was fond of cycling and had been seen regularly along the nearby lanes. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

To explain the story behind this, we must go back to April 1945, when newspapers reported that the Yorkshire Electricity Power Company had bought the Scarcroft Lodge estate for between £30,000 and £40,000. It became their headquarters, later belonging to the Yorkshire Electricity Board and subsequently the offices of Npower.

Because this Grade II listed house was lost to commerce meant that there were relatively few old images available. However, two black and white images have emerged from June 1907, showing Scarcroft Lodge still in rural bliss.

Scarcroft Lodge - Leeds Mercury - 19 June 1907 - BNA 1
The grounds of Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, West Yorkshire, were photographed for the Leeds Mercury in June 1907. The view of the gardens from the terrace were described as ‘pleasing’. A few years before this picture was taken there had been talk of the grounds being purchased for the making of a racecourse. In the event, the grounds were eventually built over to accommodate the Yorkshire Electricity Board. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Scarcroft Lodge was built in 1830 by Quaker wool merchant Newman Cash. He came to Leeds from Coventry in 1815, and his business flourished as he expanded trade with America. By 1826 he was so successful that he was able to buy an extensive estate around Scarcroft, and he then built his grand country house.

The house and estate were bought in 1852 by Robert Tennant, a successful Leeds solicitor, who increased the size of the estate, added an ornamental lake, and expanded the house. In 1888 the estate and house were bought by the Earl of Mexborough who carried out refurbishments and installed his daughter, Lady Mary Savile. In the 1920s she moved to Essex and the house was bought by Albert Braithwaite, a former Mayor of Leeds, who sold the house in 1938.

Scarcroft Lodge - BNP Paribas Real Estate
Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, West Yorkshire. Image: BNP Paribas.

Wartime followed and the lodge was used as a convalescent hospital, helping Second World War soldiers who were recovering from injuries on the battlefields of Europe and North Africa.

The home’s last private owner, businessman Oliphant Philipson, sold it to the Yorkshire Electricity Power Company in 1945.

Scarcroft Lodge - Yorkshire Evening Post
Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, West Yorkshire. Image: BNP Paribas.
Scarcroft Lodge - BNP Paribas Real Estate 1
An aerial view of Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, in West Yorkshire. The mansion and its former gardens and parkland were most recently used as offices for Npower. The site has been sold and a planning application has been made to convert the site into retirement accommodation. Image: BNP Paribas.

MOOR PARK HALL

Many of our Victorian mansions were too big for present day living. This house is typical of those large country houses that have been divided into modern apartments. 

Moor Park - 2018 - Preston Baker (13)
Moor Park Hall. Image: Preston Baker.

The Moor Park estate at Beckwithshaw, in North Yorkshire, was purchased in 1848 by James Bray, who built a mansion, before deciding to rebuild it Elizabethan-style in 1859 for £8,000. The architects were Messrs Andrews and Delauney of Bradford. James Bray was an iron and brass founder who had obtained contracts to build the Leeds and Thirsk and Wharfedale Railways. The Brays were widely known in the area for their enterprise and philanthropic works, and at Beckwithshaw, his wife had founded the Unsectarian Day School.

Ten years later, Moor Park was bought by Joseph Hargreave Nussey MP, a Leeds-based woollen manufacturer. In 1882, the mansion was purchased by Dr Henry Williams, a generous benefactor to the locality, who gave the village its vicarage, paid for its church furnishings and funded the village institute.

Moor Park - 2018 - Preston Baker (14)
Moor Park Hall. Image: Preston Baker.

The Williams family owned Moor Park until the 1940s, but the mansion appears to have been tenanted for most of this time. Notable residents were Frederick Wharam Turner, a Bradford wool trader and managing director of Illingworth, Morris and Co, and Robert Reid, the head of a firm of Horbury oil distillers. After Reid’s death in 1940, his widow remained until 1942, and the estate was put up for auction by Joshua Appleyard Williams of Pannal Ash. It failed to sell, but by 1947, Moor Park was in the hands of the Women’s Land Army and used as a hostel.

Moor_Park_Beckwithshaw
Today it comprises of apartments, the feature of one of these being a secret door from the drawing room, leading up to the viewing tower, with windows on all sides giving a 360-degree view.

Moor Park - 2018 - Preston Baker (9)
Moor Park Hall. Image: Preston Baker.
Moor Park - 2018 - Preston Baker (1)
Moor Park Hall. Image: Preston Baker.
Moor Park - 2018 - Preston Baker (18)
Moor Park Hall. Image: Preston Baker.
Moor Park - 2018 - Preston Baker (16)
Moor Park Hall. Image: Preston Baker.

WHEATCROFT CLIFF

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

31067065114_26682ddc03_c
In 1879, when George Alderson-Smith decided to build a new house on a clifftop above Scarborough, he chose not to listen to those people who thought it ill-advised. It was common knowledge that there was a history of cliff collapses in the area, but the house called Wheatcroft Cliff was built anyway. He died here in 1931, reaching the grand old age of 96, still declaring the property ‘safe as houses’.

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

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

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

Holbeck Gardens - Stories from Scarborough

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

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

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

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

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

Charles_Laughton-publicity2
Scarborough was actor Charles Laughton’s boyhood home, where he had his first experience of acting as a member of Scarborough Amateur Players. “I found him in holiday mood, strolling in the beautiful grounds of Holbeck Hall Hotel, which his mother and two brothers recently opened.” From the Leeds Mercury. 3 September 1935. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

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

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

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

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

_67985736_aaholbeck3_pa
Image: BBC News.
_67985738_aaholbeck4_pa
Image: BBC News.
_67985740_aaholbeck5_pa
Image: BBC News.
_67987339_aaholbeck6_pa
Image: BBC News.

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

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