Category Archives: YORKSHIRE

RUDDING PARK

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Rudding Park, Yorkshire

Large house. Begun 1805 and completed after 1824 in the style of Wyatt.  Ashlar, Westmorland slate roof. Two storeys, 13 x 7 first-floor windows to main block, with narrow rear wing with 4 first-floor windows. (Historic England)

Built: 1805 and finished after 1824
Architect: Unknown but completed by Robert Dennis Chantrell
Owner: Rudding Park Ltd
Hotel , spa and golf resort
Grade I listed

And so on to another house that has been resurrected as a hotel.

Rudding Park House may not be the architectural historian’s favourite. It is plain in comparison with its contemporaries and on a dull winter day might be described as somewhat bleak.

However, the house has a simplistic and attractive charm. Nowadays the house appears lost amidst a myriad of hotel extensions and car parks that form Rudding Park Hotel. Thankfully, the house still occupies pride of place on a plateau looking eastwards across the slopes that were once part of the medieval Knaresborough Forest. The hotel developments lay behind the house and it is still possible to see it in its original form.

The visit was on the back of a book I read recently. James Lees-Milne’s Fourteen Friends had a chapter on Everard Radcliffe (1910-1975) whose ‘bond was strengthened when we were a good deal thrown together in protracted negotiations over the future preservation of his ancestral estate, country house and the exquisite works of art it contained’. Prolonged these negotiations were as they went on from 1959 until 1972.

Rudding Park had originally been owned by the Earl of Rosslyn who sold it to his nephew, the Hon William Gordon, in 1805. He set about demolishing the old house, which stood a little towards the south-west, and prepared work on a new one. History doesn’t say who the original architect was, but the foundation walls were rectangular with five ellipses – two on the main east front, one on each side and a rear one on the west elevation. Work was painfully slow and when Gordon decided to sell Rudding, in 1824, only a few outline walls had been built.

The buyer was Sir Joseph Radcliffe, 2ndBaronet, who decided to sell the family home at Milnsbridge, near Huddersfield.

The Radcliffes were an ancient Lancashire family and Sir Joseph’s father, the 1stBaronet, had played a key part in suppressing the Luddites of the Colne Valley.

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Milnsbridge House

Milnsbridge House was a three-storey house built in 1756 and set in large grounds including an ornamental garden and two ponds. However, the industrial spread was advancing and Rudding Park provided a new beginning.

Radcliffe continued work on Rudding Park with the help of Robert Dennis Chantrell, a pupil of Sir John Soane and the architect behind Leeds Parish Church.

Once completed the house consisted of two storeys – no second floor or attic – and was made of ashlar with a Westmorland slate roof. The roof was surmounted by plain projected cornicing in place of the traditional parapet.

‘It is typical of that post-Regency phase of architectural simplicity, a reaction if you like from the ostentation of the Prince Regent’s Carlton House and Brighton Pavilion influences, in being mathematically uncompromising, almost puritanical’.

Once built there appears to have been very little work done to Rudding Park with the exception of a private chapel alongside the house. This was on a very grand scale and is the size of a parish church. It was built by A.E. Purdie in 1874 for Sir Percival Radcliffe, the 3rd Baronet, and with its Aberdeen granite and alabaster, remains untouched today.

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The private chapel at Rudding Park


‘Everard was immensely proud of the Victorian chapel and the treasures it contained’.

By the time the 4th Baronet, his grandfather, handed Rudding Park to Joseph Benedict Everard Henry Radcliffe (hereby known as our Everard Radcliffe), shortly after the Second World War, the house was run down and in desperate need of attention.

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Everard Radcliffe

The trustees advised him to get rid of the estate but, with a sense of family loyalty, he set about restoring the house. The interiors were redecorated, refurnished and renovated with collected antiques, ornaments, portraits and furniture.

‘We have the history of England in a few rooms hung with tapestries and pictures’ wrote Sacheverell Sitwell.

The house was opened to the public but there appeared to be concerns on the part of Everard Radcliffe as to the future of the estate.

‘When money problems caught up with his extravagance he played a protracted game of cat and mouse with the National Trust over his inheritance,’ says Deborah Devonshire in her book All in One Basket.

Radcliffe had gifted the Marsden Moor Estate, near Huddersfield, to the National Trust in 1955, presumably in lieu of death duties for his grandfather, the 4th Baronet, who had died in 1949. The National Trust might have been forgiven for thinking that the house would be transferred to them.

‘Everything was safely tied up, and the only thing left to be done was Everard’s completion of his will and signature thereto’.

In 1971 Rudding Park was the location for a Granada TV series, Seasons of the Year, a series of six plays involving various occupants of ‘Seasons’, a country house, over a 150 year period.

How ironic it might have seemed when, in March 1972, The Evening Postnewspaper reported that Rudding Park was on the market thus ending the Radcliffe’s own 150 year occupancy.

The estate was sold for £1.2m to John Howard Mackaness (1915-2002).

Radcliffe kept small pieces of furniture and the contents fetched £200,000 at auction. He moved to Switzerland and died in 1975.

Mackaness was a landowner, businessman and master of foxhounds, with strong family roots at Boughton Hall in Northamptonshire.

He had big ambitions for Rudding Park and converted the kitchen gardens into Rudding Holiday Park in 1973.

In the early 1980s the redundant farms buildings to the north of the site – previously Home Farm then The Stables – were sold for a private housing development called Rudding Dower.

It would be 1987 before Rudding Park House was developed when it became a prestigious conference and banqueting centre. An 18-hole golf course was created in 1995. But arguably the most important advancement came after Mackaness’ death, with the building of a 50 bedroom hotel alongside the house in 1997 and a further 48 rooms added in 2010.

There is always sadness when a house moves out of private ownership. However, Everard Radcliffe will take some solace that the Mackaness family, who still own Rudding Park, have ensured the future survival of the house.

Note: The Radcliffe Baronetcy of Milnsbridge House in the County of York is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. The title still exists with Everard Radcliffe’s son, Sir Sebastian Everard Radcliffe, 7th Baronet, (Born 1972), who inherited the title at the age of three.

Rudding Park Hotel,
Follifoot, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1JH

BRETTON HALL

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Built: 1720 with later additions
Architect: Sir William Wentworth and Col. James Moyser
Owner: Rushbond PLC
Currently unoccupied with plans for hotel development
Grade II*

Large country house and later college. Circa 1720, 1780s, 1811-14 and c.1852. The south range c.1720 by Sir William Wentworth and Col. James Moyser for Sir William Wentworth himself. The north range 1780s by William Lindley of Doncaster, the linking block and remodelling of the south range (ie the south bow and the east portico) 1811-14 by Jeffry Wyatt for Col. Thomas Richard and Diana Beaumont, the projecting dining room on the east front added c.1852 probably by Thomas Richardson for Thomas Blackett Beaumont. Ashlar, the roof hidden behind parapet. 9-bay by 5-bay main, south range with a 3-bay link block to north which extends westwards and terminates in the orangery, and a 7-bay north range. (Historic England)

Academia has been kind to Bretton Hall. If it hadn’t been for the foresight of Sir Alec Clegg, Chief Education Officer at West Riding County Council, we might not have been able to see it at all.

In 1947 he purchased the house for £30,000. It gave Bretton a purpose and an acceptable standard over the following decades. Now it stands silent. While the grounds have been revitalised the house has been empty since 2007. Nevertheless, it remains a graceful sight.

Its history goes back to the 14th century when the Dronsfields built on the Yorkshire hillside.

The estate passed by marriage to the Wentworths in 1407. Such was the importance of the family that King Henry VIII spent three nights at Bretton and the furnishings, draperies and panelling from this room would go down in posterity.

The current house was built around 1720 by Sir William Wentworth, assisted by the architect, Colonel James Moyser. Famously the contents of the Henry VIII parlour would be incorporated into the new house.

In 1792 Bretton Hall passed over to the Beaumont family.

There began a period of improvement and expansion for the house. In 1793 the library and dining room would be remodelled by John Carr with a new wing built by Sir Jeffrey Wyattville between 1811 and 1814.

Stables were added by George Basevi in 1830. Such was the grandness that four lodges would be commissioned. The North Lodge and Haigh Lodge were probably designed by Jeffrey Wyattville, and likely to have been built at the same time as the 1811-14 extension. The Hoyland Lodge has had considerable alterations and the imposing Archway Lodge, designed by William Atkinson in 1801, stands as a stately archway with grooved columns, seemingly leading to nowhere in the 21st century.

The house itself is a three-storey nine-bay range built in sandstone ashlar with its roof hidden behind a balustrade parapet. It is topped with tall ornamental chimney stacks.

It looks over the pleasure grounds and parkland which were the work of landscape designers Richard Woods, in the 18th century, and Robert Marnock, who was head gardener in the 1820s and 1830s, and would go on to become the first curator at Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens. The River Dearne flows easterly and was dammed in the 18th century to form two lakes.

In the 19th century the Bretton interests included property, agriculture, coal mining, and lead mining as well as share interests at home and abroad. They had become one of the wealthiest landowning and mining families of Northumberland with roots at Bywell and Allenhead.

In 1831, Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, who inherited his mother’s estate, would be called the ‘richest commoner in England’.

He set about selling most of the contents of the house and gardens at auction in 1832. Included in the sale was a huge dome conservatory designed by J. C. Louden (it was 60ft in diameter and 45ft in height).  It had cost £8,000 to build but, a Mr Bentley, a brewer by trade, would buy it for a mere £1,450. The conservatory would eventually be sold to the Duke of Devonshire.

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Plans of the Bretton Conservatory

By the time Beaumont retired in 1837 the money amassed from the auction would be used to revitalise Bretton Hall. He, and later his son, Wentworth Blackett Beaumont, would make considerable improvements to the house and grounds. But hard times were around the corner.

In the 1850s he had to reduce rents to his tenant farmers followed later by mineral rents. In the 1880s the leases on his Northumberland lead mines expired and lands in the outlying Yorkshire villages had to be sold to generate income. Wentworth Blackett Beaumont would later become Baron Allendale of Allendale and Hexham in 1907.

The Beaumont’s long association with Bretton Hall would end in 1947.

Blackett Beaumont’s son, Wentworth Henry Canning Beaumont (the 2nd Viscount Allendale), decided the ravages of the first part of the 20th century had taken their toll.

The War Office had used the house from 1939 and, presumably, the cost of renovating the house was too much.

The panelling from the Henry VIII parlour was given to Leeds Council and would later be moved to Temple Newsam.

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At a time when many stately homes were lost to demolition it is a credit that Beaumont navigated a sale to Alec Clegg at West Riding County Council.

Beaumont finally left Bretton behind and moved back to the family home at Bywell Hall.

Bretton College opened in 1949 and would continue as a teacher training college, and then as an institution for design, music and performing arts, for the next 52 years.

In the 1960s accommodation blocks were built to house the students who had to remain on site in such a remote location. In 1969 it would gain recognition as a location for the Ken Russell film, Women in Love.

The cost of maintaining the house eventually proved too burdensome and, in 2001, it was deemed that Bretton College was financially unviable. A merger was negotiated with the University of Leeds and it became a campus until its closure in 2007.

The current owner of Bretton Hall is Wakefield Council. It has maintained and secured Bretton for the past seven years but the hall stands vacant overlooking the busy M1 motorway.

The parkland is now the popular Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the former deer park is Bretton Country Park. The past development of accommodation and car parks for the college and multiple use as a country park, as well as general neglect, resulted in a fragmented layout of the grounds.

In 2009 it was designated ‘At Risk’ by English Heritage but a successful conservation plan has resulted in a significantly improved landscape. Only the annexes, extensions and sixties hostel blocks blight the scene. Once these have been cleared Bretton can once again breathe and bask in its glory.

There are plans to convert the grade 2* listed Georgian house into a luxury hotel – project title The Bretton – with Rushbond PLC gaining planning permission in April 2013.

The house will have 77 rooms with 120 more added in due course. Alongside will be 39,000 square feet of office space. The student blocks from 1962 will thankfully be demolished.

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The 1960s accommodation blocks to the right

We have already seen that conversion to hotel use can prolong the life of a country house indefinitely.

Bretton Hall could be the best of all, with close linking routes to Leeds and Sheffield, but the cost of conversion is likely to be excessive.

With no takers so far, one wonders whether it is too much of an undertaking for it to ever happen. In the meantime, Bretton Hall stands lonely and pitiful in its Yorkshire surroundings.

Bretton Hall, Beaumont Drive, West Bretton,
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF4 4JT