KNAPPE CROSS

In June 1938. Ashley Courtenay, the resident hotel inspector for The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, visited ‘a new sporting hotel’, Knappe Cross in Exmouth, Devon, managed by Mr William Dedman and his wife Winifred.

Knappe Cross - The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - Jun 3 1938 - BNA
Knappe Cross. Designed by William Ansell, a member of the Arts Workers Guild of which he was master in 1944. It was described in 1909 as… ‘extremely simple, projecting mouldings being avoided and good material and proportions being relied upon for effect.’ Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Driving up a narrow lane on the Honiton side of Exmouth you will come upon an imposing pair of park gates. It is a magnificent building designed in the best Tudor style by a famous architect, and its outside appearance, as it stands in its beautiful tree-girt grounds looking across the valley to the sea, a mile away, is truly impressive. Inside you will find rooms which are as magnificent in proportion as the outside of the building suggests.

“The furnishings are modern and very fine, but chosen to accord, perfectly with the natural dignity of the house. Every modern luxury of equipment, such as central heating and softened water, is here for your convenience, but the pleasant features of the more romantic periods of domestic architecture have been allowed to take their place.”

E Petrie Hoyle - Sue Young Histories
Dr Ethelbert Petrie Hoyle (1861-1955). Image: Sue Young Histories.

It was a new dawn for Knappe Cross, a country house that was completed in 1908 for Dr Ethelbert Petrie Hoyle (1861-1955) by architect William Ansell and built by Crediton builders, Dart and Francis. Hoyle was an American homeopathic doctor who was said to have enjoyed a generous income from investments in South African tin mines. It was a large house of red brick with stone dressings and clay tiled roof in Elizabethan style; an interesting design that attracted the interest of Architectural Review magazine.

In the end, Hoyle’s stay at Knappe Cross was short-lived. Shortly after moving in, tragedy struck when his son Michael died at birth, possibly casting a shadow over the mansion.

Knappe Cross - The Country Houses of Devon
Knappe Cross. Designed in 1908 by William Ansell and built by Dart and Francis of Crediton. Ansell later became President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Image: The Country Houses of Devon.

In 1910, Hoyle sold Knappe Cross to Augustus Arthur Perceval, 8th Earl of Egmont (1856-1910), whose family had been owners of Cowdray Park in Sussex which he had sold two years earlier. He was an interesting character. Born in Lancashire he had lived in New Zealand for a while, later becoming a naval cadet, a fireman and a caretaker at Chelsea Town Hall. Unfortunately, he died before taking possession of Knappe Cross, and it was his widow, Kate, daughter of Warwick Howell of South Carolina, who lived in the house.

Knappe Cross - Western Morning News - 9 Oct 1926 - BNA
Sale notice from October 1926. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

By the 1920s the house was in the possession of Mr E. J. Spencer, passing in 1928 to George Ernest Wright of Pudleston Court, Hereford. He had been High Sheriff of Hereford in 1914 and was a director of the Lilleshall Company and John Wright and Co of Edgbaston in Birmingham. Wright died in 1933 and his wife, Matilda, stayed at Knappe Cross until her own death two years later.

Knappe Cross Devon Ltd was formed in 1938 as the holding company for the new hotel. However, the outbreak of war in 1939 meant it was an unfortunate and ill-fated move. There was little enthusiasm for a ‘sporting’ hotel and Mr and Mrs Dedman needed alternative revenue to keep the business solvent. Salvation came in 1941 when the Royal United Service Orphan Home for Girls (‘children of our brave sailors, soldiers and airmen’) moved from Devonport to the peace and quiet of Knappe Cross.

Knappe Cross - Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - 15 Apr 1938 -BNA
Knappe Cross Hotel opened in 1938. This advertisement from the same year appeared in newspapers across the country. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

After the war the orphanage moved to the Army and Navy Villas at Newquay, in Cornwall, and Knappe Cross became a hotel again in 1946, this time under the management of Edgar Philip Jenkins. It became a convalescent home for the Post Office in 1952 and became a hotel again in 1981, before being converted into a nursing home, with a new wing added to the house in 1992.

THE VALE

There is little more seductive than a grand, yet not overbearing country house. Once known as Vale Lodge, in the reign of George I, this property was the scene of Royal feasting.

The Vale - 2018 - KF (2)
Image: Knight Frank.

In 1849, a ‘modern house’ was put up for sale in the village of Winkfield in Berkshire. ‘The residence is approached by a carriage drive sweep with lawn, flower garden, orchard and meadow. It contains eight bedrooms and dressing rooms, drawing room, dining room, breakfast room, two staircases and a stone entrance’.

Vale Lodge had not long been built, supposedly rebuilt using the structure of a hunting lodge on the Windsor Castle estate. 169 years later, the country house, now known as The Vale, no longer stands on Royal land, and is up for sale for the first time in 22 years.

The Vale - 2018 - KF (14)
Image: Knight Frank.

The house appears to have fallen into the hands of Isaiah Linwood Verity, a Major in the 92nd Highlanders, whose desperate suicide at Brompton in 1849, may have prompted the house sale the same year. The house probably didn’t sell because his son, Charles Felix Verity, soon to become a Major in 2nd (South) Middlesex Corps, later lived here.

And so, Vale Lodge, in Berkshire hunting country and close to Ascot Racecourse, proved to be a popular house. Often tenanted, its notable residents including Warine B. M. Lysley, a director of the County and General Gas Company and Bombay Gas Company, and The Hon. Arthur Henry John Walsh, Politician and Lord-Lieutenant, and later 3rd Baron Ormathwaite.

The Vale - 2018 - KF (8)
Image: Knight Frank.

Vale Lodge, with its painted stucco, was extended in the late 19th century, probably with the addition of its portico flanked by Corinthian pillars, but appears remarkably unchanged, except for the addition of an outdoor swimming pool.

Grade II listed, The Vale is on sale at Knight Frank with a guide price of £3.5 million.

The Vale - 2018 - KF (10)
Image: Knight Frank.

TWYFORD HOUSE

Twyford House - The Graphic - Mar 1918 - BNA
Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In March 1918, The Graphic followed the English footsteps of Benjamin Franklin, the great American negotiator. He was ever a welcome guest at the Twyford home of Dr Jonathan Shipley (who became Bishop of St Asaph in 1769), and here in 1771 Franklin, having the prospect of ‘a few weeks’ uninterrupted leisure,’ resolved to begin an account of his life for the information and guidance of his son. In Twyford House, Hampshire, the “self-taught American” put in hand the book which preserved his fame for all time to come. The apartment in which he penned the early chapters of his autobiography was known as ‘Franklin’s Room’, while opposite the mansion was a row of trees known as ‘Franklin’s Grove,’ because it was here that he liked to pace up and down for hours at a stretch. The house is now divided into three: Twyford House, Wing House and Well House.

Twyford House - Peter facey-Geograph
Image: Peter Facey/Geograph.

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.

HAYES PLACE

An American shrine on English soil. Following in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin, the great negotiator, and the sad plight of an English country house.

Hayes Place - The Graphic - 2 March 1918 - BNA
Hayes Place was the home of the distinguished statesman William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, who was Prime Minister in 1766-1768. His son, William Pitt the Younger (the youngest ever Prime Minister) was born here in 1759. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In March 1918, The Graphic highlighted Hayes Place in Kent, the ornate home of the Earl of Chatham, and the historical visit of the great American, Benjamin Franklin.

From 1757 to 1774, Franklin lived mainly in London where he was the colonial representative for Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. His attempts to reconcile the British government with the colonies proved fruitless. On his return to America, the war of independence had already broken out and he threw himself into the struggle. In 1776, he helped to draft, and was then a signatory to, the Declaration of Independence.

In 1758, when relations between the mother land and her American colonies had become strained to breaking point, William Pitt the elder, later the 1st Earl of Chatham, went out of his way to make the acquaintance of the famous American. They met within the walls of Hayes Place, where Franklin and the Earl held many discussions as to how the differences between Great Britain and America might be healed.

Hayes Place - Lost Country Houses of Kent
Pitt acquired Hayes in 1757 then rebuilt the house and added land to the estate. General Wolfe dined here in 1759 on the night before he departed to his fate at Quebec. During Pitt’s time as Prime Minister, Thomas Walpole held the house and encased it in white brick during further enlargement. Walpole resold it to Pitt in 1768, who died here ten years later in 1778. Image: Lost Country Houses of Kent.

Site of a house since the 15th century, in 1754 William Pitt the elder bought the property, subsequently rebuilding it. The birthplace of his son, Pitt the Younger in 1759 and the scene of his own death in 1778, it was visited by many of the major figures of the late 18th century but passed out of the family in 1785.

Hayes Place - Ideal Home
Other noted owners of Hayes Place included philanthropist Edward Wilson (who acquired the house in 1864) and Sir Everard Alexander Hambro (1880), who carried out improvements to Hayes village. Hayes Place was demolished in 1933 and houses were erected on the site. Image: Ideal Homes.

In 1880 Everard Hambro of the banking family, became the owner. Following his death in 1925 his son Eric decided to dispose of the estate for building, although the need for an improved infrastructure for this rural area meant delays.

As a result the house survived until 1933.

Developed as the Hayes Place Estate by Henry Boot, a Sheffield based company, roads such as Chatham Avenue and Hambro Avenue were named after figures associated with the house’s history.

“Where statesmen once met to discuss state matters, builders’ men now eat their lunches. Hayes Place, the historic mansion of the Pitts, is now used as a store for building materials.” – Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser – March 1933.

Henry Boot - Norwood News - 26 May 1933 - BNA

Hambro Avenue
Hambro Avenue in Hayes, Kent. This is named after one of the occupants of Hayes Place. Sheffield-builder Henry Boot demolished the house in 1933 and laid out the Hayes Place estate. Several local firms put up more estates, including Hayes Hill, Pickhurst Manor, and Hayes Gardens. Image: Google Streetview.

BROOMSWOOD MANOR

Miller Christy devoted his life to research and literature. He built himself a replica Tudor house, all its details taken from old Tudor houses in Essex.

Broomwood Manor - 2018 - Savills 1
Broomswood Manor, Chignal St James, Essex. Image: Savills.

Appearances can be deceptive. Broomswood Manor, at Chignal St James, looks like a 17th century house, but was designed by Frederick Rowntree at the turn of the 20th century. It was built in 1912-13 for Miller Christy, the historian, and was known as Broomswood Lodge, with leaded-light windows, herringbone brickwork with exposed timbers under a tiled roof, and fine shafted chimneys.

Miller Christy (1861-1928), a bachelor, was an authority on archaeology and ornithology in Essex. He was an inexhaustible writer – ‘The Birds of Essex’, ‘Trade Signs of Essex’, ‘Manitoba Described’, ‘Essex Rivers and their Names’, ‘The Genus Primula of Essex’, ‘Our Empire’, ‘History of Banking in Essex’ and the ambiguously titled ‘A Museum of Fire-Making Appliances’. If writing books was not enough, he was a regular contributor to ‘The Essex Review’.

He might have been an illustrious writer, but a businessman he was not. He co-founded Hayman, Christy and Lilly, printers of London, which spectacularly failed, leading him into bankruptcy and was the cause of a nervous breakdown in 1920.

Christy gave up Broomswood Manor and moved to London where he died eight years later.

MillerChristy - Goldhanger in the Past
Robert Miller Christy (1861-1928) died at Middlesex Hospital in London after an operation. As well as being a naturalist and archaeologist, he was the curator of the Museum of Fire-Making Appliances. In his house he displayed a collection of fire furniture in use before the days of modern grates. Image: Goldhanger in the Past.
Broomwood Manor - 2018 - Savills 24
Broomswood Manor, Chignal St James, Essex. Image: Savills.

The house was bought by Major Charles E. Hodges and his wife, who remained until 1925, and later passed to Major Gerald V.N. Riley (1897-1953).

Charles Hodges giving away his daughter Joan Eileen Walker Hodges to ilfred Sutton Page - June 1925 - Essex Record Office
Charles Hodges giving away his daughter Joan Eileen Walker Hodges to Wilfred Sutton Page – June 1925 – Image: Essex Record Office.

Its most notable owner turned out to be Edmund Ironside, son of Field Marshal William Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside, a senior officer in the British Army, who served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the first year of World War Two.

Edmund Oslac Ironside, 2nd Baron Ironside (born 1924) sat in the Lords from 1959 but lost his seat because of the House of Lords Act 1999, when all but ninety-two hereditary peers lost their right to sit in the house. Prior to this, he had gained the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy in 1943 before retiring from the military in 1952. He later worked at Marconi Ltd, English Electric Leo Computers, Cryosystems and International Research and Development. He also became a consultant with Rolls-Royce.

Ironside married Audrey Marigold Morgan-Grenville in 1950 and succeeded to the title following the death of his father in 1959. Although living at Broomswood Manor for several years, he is better-known for living at Priory House at Boxstead, in the same county.

Edmund Ironside - The Tatler - 17 May 1950 - BNA
From The Tatler, May 1950. The wedding of Miss Audrey Morgan-Grenville, daughter of Col. the Hon. Thomas and Mrs Morgan-Grenville. The bridegroom was an officer of the Senior Service – Lt. the Hon. Edmund Ironside – and the best man, and the sixteen members of the guard of honour, were brother officers. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
Ironside - The Sketch - 22 Oct 1958 - BNA
Mrs Edmund Ironside was photographed with her two children, Fiona, who was five, and three-year-old Charles, in 1958, in the garden of Broomswood Manor. Her husband, the Hon. Edmund Ironside, was the son of Lord Ironside, whose peerage was created in 1941 to crown his outstanding military career. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In 2005, after the death of its then-owner, Broomswood Manor stood empty for a year before being sold for £1.1 million. Since then, the house has been restored and enlarged, and in September 2018, it was on sale at Savills with a guide price of £2.6 million.

Broomwood Manor - 2018 - Savills 29
Broomswood Manor, Chignal St James, Essex. Image: Savills.

OLDWAY

Built by the Singer family to take advantage of Devon’s mild climate and cosmopolitan society. One hundred years after use as a military hospital it faces an uncertain future.

Oldway Mansion - The Victorian Society
The tradition for building large villas in the hills overlooking Torbay began in the late 18th century. Image: The Victorian Society.

On the day that The Victorian Society has released their Top 10 Endangered Buildings List 2018, we take a look at Oldway Mansion at Paignton, the only country house to feature on this year’s listing.

One hundred years ago, life at Oldway was very different, if not more traumatic. American women were rendering generous and greatly appreciated help here to the wounded Allies’ forces, the house renamed as the American War Hospital. It was one of the finest and best-equipped in the whole range of Red Cross undertakings. Mr Paris Singer, who was well known as a skilful aviator, had given over his palatial residence with its hundreds of rooms and beautiful grounds, an ideal home for the wounded. Dr Penhallow was the chief surgeon, and a staff of over a hundred and fifty nurses carried on the work under Colonel Gunning.

Oldway - The Illustrated War News - Jan 3 1917 - BNA
Paris Singer rebuilt Oldway between 1897 and 1910. Four years later, he converted the mansion into a military hospital, after which he never lived here again. He departed for America where he developed the resort of Palm Beach. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

This glorious house of 1873 was built by George Bridgman as a private residence for Isaac Merritt Singer, founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, and later rebuilt by his third son, Paris Singer, in the style of the Palace of Versailles. Following the end of an affair with dancer Isadora Duncan in 1917, Paris Singer went to live in the United States. Oldway Mansion became the Torbay Golf & Country Club in 1929 and was bought by Paignton Urban District Council in 1946.

Oldway - The Illustrated War News - Jun 3 1917 - BNA (2)
From The Illustrated War News. January 1917. The wounded soldiers seen in this photograph were enjoying a came of cards on the terrace of Oldway. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
Oldway - The Illustrated War News - Jan 3 1917 - BNA (1)
From The Illustrated War News. January 1917. Oldway, at Paignton in Devon, was being used as the American War Hospital. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Following many different functions during the later 20th century, it was used as council offices from 1946 until 2007 when the council announced its intention to sell the building as it had become too expensive to maintain. This proved controversial with residents who wished it to continue being a public space. In 2012, plans for the building to be converted into a luxury hotel and sheltered retirement flats were approved by the council, but works never started. In 2016 there emerged a legal dispute between the developers and the council over the leases, which developers claimed had caused the delay on the redevelopment. This heated legal dispute ultimately brought an end to the planned development, leaving the council once again with the issue of how to proceed with the empty listed building.

Country houses with a story to tell

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