Built: Early 1200s with later additions and extensions between 1837 and 1842. Demolished 1956
Architect: Anthony Salvin for 1837 additions

Owner:  Nottinghamshire County Council
Country house ruin

Rufford Abbey had the misfortune to find its expiry date coincided with the 1950s. Had it been after the 1970s then it is likely that the house would still be standing today.

The story of Rufford turns out to be one of confusion and underhandedness.

In the end this fine house became the victim. Rufford stands among the remnants of Sherwood Forest, just two miles south of Ollerton in Nottinghamshire.

Its history is rich.  As early as the 12th century it formed part of a Cistercian Abbey and estate. However, after the dissolution of the monasteries the site followed a long transition into a country house.

It fell into the hands of George Talbot, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, famous as Bess of Hardwick’s fourth husband. If she thought she would get her hands on Rufford she was mistaken.

The house passed to Shrewsbury’s daughter, Lady Mary Talbot, in 1626, who was married to a Yorkshire baronet, Sir George Savile.

According to the writer, Robert Innes-Smith, ‘had the great-grandson of this marriage been more self-seeking and line-toeing it is certain that Rufford could have been truly one of the Dukeries’.

George Savile’s actions during the 1688 sufferings meant he would become the Marquess of Halifax and not a Duke. The title would become defunct following the death of the second Lord Halifax in 1700.

A north wing was added in 1679 and a roofed southern wing was built in the 17th century. Rufford’s ownership passed to a cousin, John, and then to another George Savile, who became the 7th Baronet.

The years that followed provided growth for the house and estate. The Bath House and Garden Pavilion were built in 1743.

In 1750 a lake was created that provided power for the new corn mill (now known as Rufford Mill). The villages of Ollerton, Broughton, Kirton and Egmanton were also added to the estate.

Following the death of the 8th Baronet in 1784 his estates were split between his niece and nephew. John Lumley took the Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire estates.

The house moved swiftly through the family and, by the 1800s, Rufford was firmly in the ascendency.

The 8th Earl employed the prominent architect, Anthony Salvin, to redevelop the house. The work, completed between 1837 and 1842, cost over £18,000. The house now contained 111 rooms, 14 bathrooms and 20 staircases. During the works a magnificent entrance avenue was created with lime trees.

The Prince of Wales became a regular visitor and used Rufford as a base when visiting Doncaster races and for shooting parties. This would continue after he became King Edward VII.

In September 1908 the King and Queen stayed at Rufford and were entertained by the Scottish entertainer Harry Lauder. During the visit the royals went on a motoring tour of the neighbouring Dukeries estates visiting Welbeck Abbey, Clumber House and Thoresby Hall but it was back to Rufford they came.


After the First World War the Rufford estate was failing.

With the death of the 3rd Lord Savile in 1931, Rufford passed to his 12-year-old son, George Halifax Lumley-Savile. His age meant that a Board of Trustees was appointed to run the estate and here began its demise.

The following year the Yorkshire estates were sold to raise revenue but it took until 1938 for them to decide that Rufford was now too expensive to run. Outstanding death duties and reduced estate income meant that Rufford’s future was now perilous.

In April, Alderman Sir Albert Ball, a former Lord Mayor of Nottingham, signed a contract with Savile to buy the majority of the Rufford estate which consisted of 18,500 acres and several villages.

The sale meant that Rufford was now the fifth Nottinghamshire estate to be vacated or sold (the others were Clumber, Bestwood, Wollaton and Newstead) with the surrounding lands providing the real reasons for interest. Lord Savile would move to the family home at Gryce Hall, Shelley, in Yorkshire.

 ‘Sir Albert will try to sell the residence, but at the present he has no customer for it. Parts of the estate he regards as ripe for building development.’ The Times

Sir Albert Ball had originally made his fortune with the family’s plumbing business but had looked to real estate to enhance his wealth.

He had purchased Bulwell Hall in 1908 and later sold 225 acres to Nottingham Corporation.

In April 1919 he acquired the Papplewick estate in Nottinghamshire which had promptly been broken up and sold for a profit (although the house still survives today).

In 1936 he bought Upton Hall, near Newark, but his attentions appeared to wane with the purchase of Rufford which promised greater riches.

After owning Rufford for just a month Ball decided to put the estate back up for sale.

To gain the best rewards he split the estate into 400 lots. The contents of the house were the first to go and were sold at auction in the Long Gallery of the North Wing in October 1938. According to The Times this raised £25,000. There were then two further auctions – Furniture and object d’arte (raising £10,000) and a fine art sale at Christies in London which netted an additional £31,000.


The estate was auctioned in November.

The lots included farms, small holdings, 128 cottages, 6 shops, business premises and building sites within the communities of Ollerton, Eakring, Bilsthorpe, Boughton, Wellow, Ompton, Egmanton and Walesby.

Also included were 1,000 acres of prime oak woodland. The house itself was advertised as a single lot together with 843 acres of parkland. At the time the sale catalogue reported that 18,600 acres of land was for sale but Ball had already sold 7,380 acres privately.

It would take until the following summer for Ball to dispose of 14,000 acres raising £250,000. The house remained unsold and would eventually be withdrawn from sale along with surrounding land.

“Overtures are still being made for the Abbey. I don’t think for one moment that it will be pulled down. I don’t intend doing such a thing.” Sir Albert Ball

According to reports the house was being considered for conversion as an ‘educational centre’ and even as a potential holiday camp. Meanwhile, just a few miles away, quietly unnoticed, the magnificent Clumber House was demolished and lost forever.

In August 1939 The Times finally announced the sale of Rufford Abbey.

The new owner was to be Henry Talbot de Vere Clifton. This individual was the successor owner of Lytham Hall in Lancashire but resided in Jamaica. He also owned the neglected Kildalton Castle on Islay in Scotland.

According to legend he lived an extravagant lifestyle far beyond his means. He’d inherited the family fortune at 18 and subsequently plundered the Clifton estates on madcap schemes. Clifton owned a yacht, had permanent suites at The Ritz and The Dorchester and spent lavishly on racehorses.

He was at Oxford at the same time as the writer Evelyn Waugh and there is speculation that the character of Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited was based on him. He eventually managed to squander £4m and died virtually penniless in a Brighton hotel.

It is likely that Clifton’s land agent brought Rufford to his attention. He certainly had no intention of living in the house and did not appear interested in letting the property. A caretaker was left in the house but, with no maintenance since the Savile days, its upkeep was minimal.

We can only assume that the surrounding land, and its potential for development, was the real reason for Clifton’s investment.

Whatever his intentions, fate was to deal a cruel hand for both Clifton and Rufford Abbey.

While Clifton spent his days in sunnier climes he might have forgotten that there was a war on.

Within weeks Rufford was requisitioned by the War Office and would become home to the 6th Cavalry Brigade of the Leicestershire Yeomanry and the 4th Battalion of the Coldstream Guards. Churchill tanks would soon rumble over the estate and churn up the fine grassland where once King Edward VII dined on the lawns.

Large areas of surrounding woodland would be cleared for war use. Huts would be built in the parkland to the west of the house and later become temporary shelter for Italian prisoners of war.

Rufford, like many country houses, suffered at the hands of the army and its charges. One report suggested that the Italians ripped down silk brocade hangings to make into silk handbags for their girlfriends back home.


After the war Rufford was handed back to Clifton.

He received a small amount of compensation but this didn’t mean he had to spend the money on the house. He started stripping the house of its panelling and doors, almost certainly preparation for demolition. This notice came in 1949 with his agent stating“that in the current post-war economic climate it was of greater national importance to demolish and salvage valuable building materials.”

Nottinghamshire County Council refused all requests to demolish Rufford but Clifton argued that the poor state of the building meant that the surrounding land was worthless. A Building Preservation Order was served on the house but, with no solution, Clifton exercised his rights that required the enacting county council to purchase the building from him. This was probably the first such case in the country.

“It is deserted and depressing. Inside deporable apart from the twelfth-century undercroft. Nothing old left otherwise. It is suffering cruelly from dry rot to the extent that all the floors and the ground storey of the Stuart wing have been ripped up and the earth is showing through.” James Lees-Milne (June 1949)

In 1952, with the building in a poor state of repair Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) was faced with a dilemma.

The local writer and historian Robert Innes-Smith founded the Rufford Abbey Trust with the aim of securing a viable future. However, with dry rot, rising damp, a damaged roof, mining subsidence and bulging walls, the way ahead was anything but certain.

He recently stated that the NCC seemed uninterested at the time. They might have been forgiven as they were now owners of a property they probably didn’t want.

Opinions on the future of Rufford were divided.

The Ministry of Works suggested that the mix of architectural styles meant the house was not worthy of saving. However, there were those who favoured the house to be saved. The Ministry of Town and Country Planning, the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and the National Trust all expressed interest in its future. Indeed the National Trust had looked at Rufford as part of its Country House Scheme but decided it didn’t meet its criteria. The SPAB commissioned the architect David Nye to look at how much it would cost to make the building safe and eliminate dry rot. His suggestion was £11,745 while the Ministry of Works had suggested a figure in excess of £60,000. There were also calls from private individuals for the house to be saved.

Myles Thoroton Hilyard (from Flintham Hall), on the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, was vocal in his support, as was the Duke of Portland from nearby Welbeck Abbey. His counterpart at Thoresby, Earl Manvers, did not share his enthusiasm and suggested that Rufford ‘might not be worthy for saving’.

The records of the NCC show that 27 uses were proposed for the house.

There was interest from the National Coal Board, the British Sugar Corporation, Sheffield Regional Health Board, the County Museum and the Raleigh Bicycle Company.

Probably the most serious intention came from the Boots Pure Drug Company who proposed using Rufford as a Pharmacy College and Warehouse.

In the end there wasn’t a viable use for the building. It is likely that a report issued by the National Coal Board in 1953 had already sealed its fate. In this document they stated their intention to resume coal extraction on the western side of Rufford’s buildings that would last between 1958 and 1980 and that “extensive damage could be experienced due to possible ‘erratic subsidence’”.

In June 1956 the NCC started demolition. The work was completed in three phases. The upper floors of the 18th century east wing were removed leaving protection to the listed lower medieval undercroft while the northern Georgian extension was flattened and grassed over. (The work was steady but actually didn’t get fully completed until the late 1980s). In 1969 the remains of Rufford and its grounds were designated a country park.


Today the surviving fabric of the house is mainly Jacobean with ornate steps, porch and Anthony Salvin’s clock tower cupola. This wing was renovated for NCC office accommodation in 1998 and the Victorian kitchen developed as the Savile Restaurant. The surviving Grade II listed stables had already been converted into a craft centre with gift and craft shops.

There is at least still something for the country house researcher to see. It stands as a ‘managed ruin’ and numbers suggest it is enjoyed by many visitors.

However, you cannot fail to feel sadness and one wonders whether modern-day revenue streams might be greater had the house remained.

The timing of Rufford’s apocalypse was unfortunate. The 1950s was the decade that saw the highest number of country houses demolished – many as a result of wartime requisition and dereliction.

It was arguably the most prestigious of The Dukeries’ estates and the loss of Rufford was yet another blow to the area. Clumber House had gone, Thoresby Hall almost suffered a similar fate, and only Welbeck remained as a private residence.

Most depressing is that there are people today who have never heard of Rufford, and those that have, see it as a ruin inside a park. What greater insult can there be to such a distinguished past?

Special thanks for information provided by Matthew Kempson

Rufford Abbey,
Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, NG22 9DF




Built: 1700s, early 1800s and remodelled  between 1827-1833
Owner:  The Chapman family
Country house hotel
Grade II*  listed

Coursed squared limestone with sandstone dressings and quoins. Sandstone ashlar. Hipped and welsh slate roofs with various ashlar stacks. One and three storeys. Principal south elevation remodelled in 1827-33. Symmetrical seven bays. Ashlar, with plain first and second floor bands and intermediate sill bands. Moulded cornice and partly balustraded parapet. Central Tuscan Doric pedimented doorcase. (Historic England)

Derbyshire is blessed with fine old houses. The grandest of them all is Chatsworth which tends to eclipse the fortunes of its less important neighbours.

Hassop Hall might well fit into this category, yet it stands only a few short miles away.  It dominates the small hamlet of Hassop – a gathering of small houses and a farm – two miles north of Bakewell.

It stands on the hillside with spectacular views across the parkland towards the valley below. It has a celebrated history but, for the fact it has served just five families, is often overlooked by architectural historians. This is a shame because its origins are far more gracious than its modern re-creation as the Hassop Hall Hotel suggests. This is not to belittle the near forty years with the Chapman family because they have turned it into a gem of a property.

Hassop Hall is simplistic but the south front is positively grandiose. The building is made of coursed squared limestone with an ashlar front, the roof is Welsh slated with ashlar stone stacks. This is all capped with a balustrade parapet. The house is three-storeys with 7 symmetrical bays alternately cantered to full height. The three round windows on the third floor are perceptively placed and complete Hassop’s beauty.

The visitor approaches from the east which effectively shows the back of the house. However, the eye is able to take in the restored ballroom range and the dominating coach and stable blocks which make up for the lack of spectacle.

The original house was in the Foljambe family. The house then passed through marriage to the Plumptons until the late 15thcentury when it was sold to Catherine, the widow of Stephen Eyre.

During the Civil War Rowland Eyre turned it into a Royalist garrison and the house was the scene of several battles. After the Parliamentary victory the house was captured and had to be redeemed at a cost of £21,000. By this time Rowland’s father had dismantled much of the old hall and replaced it with the present one.

Thomas Eyre later rebuilt much of the house between 1827 and 1833 in an L-shaped plan and moved the entrance from the south side to the west. He also built the impressive stable block and coach house to the north and the long ballroom above the dairy.

The estate eventually passed to Dorothy, sister of Francis, in 1852 and then to her widower, Colonel Charles Leslie, a year later.

The land around Hassop had always been rich in minerals and the Eyre family had made their fortune by mining. Lead was their biggest source of income and it is reputed that today there are two large manholes in the floor of the cellar that lead to one such abandoned mine. Other income was derived from fluorspar and the lesser known chert (this was transported to Staffordshire for pottery making).

By the start of the 20th century Hassop’s fortunes were on the decline.

After the first world war the house, like many others, stood empty and in a poor state of repair.

It was the intervention of Colonel Henry Kenyon Stephenson (1865-1947) who managed to revive its fortunes. He bought Hassop Hall from the Leslies in 1919.

(c) University of Sheffield; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Sir Henry Kenyon Stephenson. Portrait courtesy of Sheffield University.

Stephenson was a man of great resources and titles. During his lifetime he was the Chairman of Stephenson Blake, the Sheffield type foundry, an MP for Sheffield (Park), the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, the High Sheriff of Derbyshire and a Pro-Chancellor at Sheffield University. He would later become the 1st Baronet Stephenson in 1936.  It was Stephenson who brought the house back to life and introduced electricity and modern plumbing.

Hassop would pass to Stephenson’s son, Sir Henry Francis Blake Stephenson (1895-1982), the 2nd Baronet.

During 1953 he made alterations to the house including the removal of the top two floors of the north-west wing. It is unsure as to the state of the house’s fortunes at this time but they may have influenced Stephenson’s decision to sell in 1975.

The new buyer was Thomas Henry Chapman (1939-2013), formerly of the Waterloo Hotel at Taddington. His previous occupation would have been a sign of things to come for Hassop Hall.

Chapman purchased the house, but not the estate, and within months the house had been converted into a luxury hotel.

Four decades later it remains in the private hands of the Chapman family and thrives as a wedding and conference venue. The interiors have been elegantly maintained. The Morning Room and Drawing Room have carved marble chimneypieces by the geologist and stonemason, White Watson, from nearby Ashford-on-the-Water while the green Sitting Room has a marble Tuscan fluted chimneypiece with marbles inset.  The hotel’s steady management has also allowed the restoration to other parts. Over a twelve year period the derelict brew house, buttery and ballroom have been tastefully renovated. The 18th century Camellia House is being converted into 6 hotel suites.

The age and beauty of Hassop Hall makes it a quaint location. It thrives on stories of ghosts and phantom carriages. The mysteriousness is heightened with its underground passages. One such vaulted passage leads from the main house to the ballroom range. Other hidden passages lead down to the lake, the church and extra cellarage in the park.

We cannot leave Hassop Hall without mentioning the church which stands at the bottom of the main driveway.

This was built between 1816 and 1818 in a classical revival style, no doubt influenced by Francis Eyre’s Grand Tour of Europe. The Roman Catholic Church of All Saints was designed by Joseph Ireland and is said to be based on Inigo Jones’ St Pauls Covent Garden. He was assisted by his then apprentice, the architect Joseph John Scholes.

The church is built of stone from a Baslow quarry which would have been transported to Hassop using the turnpike road of 1745 when toll charges amounted to £10. It was later restored in 1886. Today it stands menacingly above the road with the front resembling that of an Etruscan temple, the interior rich with a coved coffered ceiling.

Hassop Hall Hotel,
Hassop Road, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1NS


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.

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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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


Little Ponton Hall
Little Ponton Hall, Lincolnshire (Lincolnshire Life)

Built: 1725 with later additions
Architect: Unknown
Owner: The McCorquodale family
Grade II listed

Small country house and service range with yard. Early C18, late C18, early C19 alterations and additions. 1864 alterations. Squared limestone rubble with ashlar quoins, ashlar, slate roofs with stone coped gables, moulded ashlar gable and ridge stacks. 2 storey plus attics, 8 bay south front arranged 3:3:2, the central 3 bays project slightly with first floor band. (Historic England)

This small country house is the last house belonging to the important Turnor family who were huge Lincolnshire landowners until the first part of the twentieth century. While the country seats at Panton Hall and Stoke Rochford Hall were sold off this house remained home to the last of the Turnor family until 2015.

While the Turnors occupied Little Ponton Hall from 1863 the house has a rich history going back even longer. For a time it belonged to the heraldic house of Fane/Vane whose descendants included the Earls of Westmorland and the Dukes of Cleveland.

The house was probably built for William Thorold, dated 1725, and later leased to Lord Widdrington. William Daye and Henry Pennyman were also owners with the latter altering the hall in the 18th century¹.

By 1831 Sir Charles Egleton Kent, 2nd Baronet, (1784-1834) was in residence. He was also occupier of Fornham Hall in Suffolk and died at Peterborough House in Fulham in December 1834, having survived his wife Lady Sophia Margaret Lygon (daughter of the Earl Beauchamp) by just three weeks. He was succeeded by his only child, Sir Charles William Kent, 3rd Baronet, (1819 -1848) a minor².

Little Ponton Hall was acquired by William Harry Vane (1766-1842). He had been the 3rd Earl of Darlington between 1792 and 1827 and the Marquess of Cleveland between 1827 and 1833. He was made the 1st Duke of Darlington in 1833. Vane had married Lady Katherine Powlett (1766-1807), second daughter of the 6th and last Duke of Bolton, in 1787. His second wife was Elizabeth Russell, the daughter of Robert Russell, a market gardener of Newton House in Yorkshire. They married in 1813 and spent most of their time at Raby Castle in Durham but Little Ponton Hall provided the perfect location for his love of fox hunting.

Following his death it would appear that the house remained within a different branch of the family. By 1856 it was under the guardianship of Vere Fane (1785-1863). He was the son of Henry Fane (1739-1802) and Anne Fane of Fulbeck Hall, near Grantham. His father was the second son of Thomas fane, 8th Earl of Westmorland, who had bequeathed him £1,000 in East India stocks.

Vere Fane, already a rich man, was a London banker and a long term partner at Praeds and Company, of 189 Fleet Street, from 1817 until his death. He had been MP for Lyme Regis between 1818 and 1826 and also benefited from compensation awarded to slave-owners for estates in Jamaica and Grenada. He married Elizabeth Chaplin, daughter of Charles Chaplin, of Blankney House, Lincolnshire, in 1815³.

Vere Fane’s daughter, Emily (1821-1893), married Colonel Edward Birch Reynardson (1812-1896) in 1849 and spent much of their time at Little Ponton Hall. They would later live at Rushington Manor, Totton, in Hampshire.

When Vere Fane died in 1863 he left effects under £20,000. In the same year Little Ponton Hall was purchased by the Turnor family who would remain until the present.

Little Ponton Hall (Grantham Matters)
Little Ponton Hall, Lincolnshire (Grantham Matters)

The first occupant was Philip Broke Turnor (1814-1882), the younger son of Edmund Turnor (1755-1829) of Stoke Rochford and Panton Hall, and brother of Christopher Turnor (1809-1886), who subsequently inherited the Turnor estates. It was Christopher Turnor who rebuilt Stoke Rochford Hall between 1841 and 1845.

Philip Broke Turnor and his wife moved into Little Ponton Hall shortly after Vere Fane’s death. Turnor had married Selina Laura Saunderson (1831-1901), daughter of Mr James Saunderson (the youngest son of Colonel Alexander Saunderson of Castle Saunderson in Ireland) in 1853.

Turnor had lived for many years at Newton House, near Folkingham, and spent his remaining 14 years at Little Ponton Hall. He died at the house in 1882 after a protracted illness. His widow remained at Little Ponton Hall and two years later married Major William Longstaffe in a ceremony at Stoke Rochford Church.

William Longstaffe (1831-1922) had been educated at Woolwich and served as Captain in the Royal North London Militia between 1855 and 1860. He also saw four years’ service during the Crimean War as well as being adjutant of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment from 1880 to 1884. He became a JP for Kesteven and Chairman of the Grantham Board of Guardians and the Rural District Council.

He was a keen huntsman and ended up supporting the Belvoir Hounds for 50 years. Longstaffe’s contribution at Little Ponton Hall was extreme and despite the death of Selina, on holiday in Folkstone, in 1901, he remained at the house for most of his life. In his final years he suffered illness and moved to Stoke Rochford Hall where he died in 1922 aged 91.

His death came as an advantage for Captain Herbert Broke Turnor (1885-1979) who married Lady Enid Victoria Rachel Fane (1894-1969) in September 1922. Herbert Broke Turnor was the eldest son of Algernon Turnor (son of Christopher Turnor) and Lady Henrietta Turnor. The marriage marked the return of the Fane/Vane family to Little Ponton Hall. Lady Enid was the eldest daughter of the 13th Earl and Countess of Westmorland and widow of Major Henry Cecil Vane, eldest son of the 9th Lord Barnard, who had died from wounds sustained during World War One. Following their wedding at St Paul’s Knightsbridge the couple set up home at Little Ponton Hall.

Little Ponton Hall (The Blackberry Garden)
Little Ponton Hall, Lincolnshire (The Blackberry Garden)

Herbert Broke Turnor lived a leisurely life at Little Ponton Hall fulfilling his duties as a member of the West Kesteven Rural District Council and of the Spitalfields branch of magistrates. He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Lincoln in 1939. However, his world irrevocably changed in 1940 following the death of his cousin Christopher Hatton Turnor (1873-1940). It meant the Turnor estates were now the responsibility of Herbert Broke Turnor and he faced some very tough decisions.

Christopher Hatton Turnor’s death saddled him with death duties amounting to £277,658. The huge bill was a hammer blow for the family. Panton Hall had been disposed of in 1917 and there was now the problem of what to do with Stoke Rochford Hall. For the duration of World War Two the army were in residence but the house was far too big and expensive to consider making it a family home again.

Herbert Broke Turnor made concessions and in 1941 wrote to the tenants of his North Lincolnshire estate, between Market Rasen and Grimsby, informing them that he had no course but to sell the land. The whole village of Kirmond-le-Mire was sold, together with farms and properties at Binbrook. Kirmond had belonged to the Turnors since the reign of Henry VIII and the auction raised £33,320. The following year he sold Sir Isaac Newton’s orchard, including the famous apple tree, at Woolsthorpe to the Royal Society at a price substantially less than its value.

Stoke Rochford Hall was let to Kesteven County Council in 1948 and finally sold to the National Union of Teachers in 1978. Little Ponton Hall was now the last remaining property belonging to the Turnor family and the only remnant of a once mighty Lincolnshire estate.

Herbert Broke Turnor died in 1979 and the estate, including Little Ponton Hall, passed to his daughter Rosemary Sybil Turnor (1924-2015). She had married Alistair McCorquadale (1925-2009) in 1947 and remained at Little Ponton Hall until her death.

Alistair McCorquadale had been educated at Harrow and was an acclaimed sportsman and athlete who lost out on a medal at the 1948 London Olympics after officials separated the 1000m finalists using photo finish technology. Following the Olympics he played cricket for Middlesex. McCorquadale was also an astute businessman and became Chairman of McCorquadale and Co in 1967. He retired in the mid-1980s and also sat on the boards of British Sugar and Guardian Royal Exchange as well as being a governor of Harrow School. He had been actively involved running the Turnor estates since 1954⁴.

He died in 2009 and the estate passed to Neil Edmund McCorquadale (b.1951) who married Lady Sarah Spencer (b.1955), the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer, and sister of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. He was a former Coldstream Guards Officer before turning his attention to farming matters.

The death of his mother, Rosemary McCorquadale (the last of the Turnor family), in 2015 means Little Ponton Hall is now under his guardianship. The future of the house is uncertain but one can presume that it might become the new family home for the present generation. Little Ponton Hall remains in relative solitude save for a few days every spring when the gardens are open to the public to view the impressive snowdrop displays.

¹ Historic England
² Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet (Thursday 18th December 1834)
³ The History of Parliament online
⁴ The Telegraph (13th March 2009)

Little Ponton Hall,
Little Ponton, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG33 5BS


The original Addington Manor in Buckinghamshire

Built: 1856-1857. Demolished in 1928
Architect: Philip Charles Hardwick, later house by F.H. Clark
Private ownership

The house was built of brick with Bath stone quoins and dressings and heavy lead roofing, in the modified form of the French chateau style, with three lofty towers and fine conservatory.

Addington Manor was built by Philip Charles Hardwick (1822-1892) between 1856 and 1857. He was best known for designing the Doric Arch and Great Hall at Euston Station as well as the Great Western Hotel at Paddington Station.

Addington Manor was built for John Gellibrand Hubbard (1805-1889), City of London financier and Conservative politician, who had purchased the estate in 1854.  He would later become the 1st Baron Addington in 1887.

The house was built of brick with Bath stone quoins and dressings and heavy lead roofing, in the modified form of the French chateau style, with three lofty towers and fine conservatory.

Philip Charles Hardwick

Round the great central tower were inscribed the words “Except the Lord build the house their labour is but lost that build it. Anno Domini 1857”. Over the library window, amid decorations of vine foliage and fruit, were the words “Dei Donum”. The third storey windows on the south and west sides of the mansion were crowned with the initials in monogram of the Lord and Lady Adlington (John Gellibrand Hubbard and the Hon Maria Margaret Hubbard), while on the north and south fronts of the building were to be seen the family crest and motto “Alta Petens”.

The decorator of the ceilings was Owen Jones, the beautiful ceiling of the oak hall being an exact copy of that in an older Addington Manor.

The family moved into Addington Manor in December 1858 and entertained many distinguished visitors , including the HRH the Duke of Connaught, the Princess Victoria Louise, Bishop Wilberforce, members of the Gladstone family and many prominent leaders of both Houses of Parliament.

The 2nd Baron Addington died in 1915 and during the First World War the house was let as a school.

In later years the house was occupied by Mrs Lawson-Johnston and family. After this the building was used as a guest house and hotel under the successive occupation of Mrs Hocker and Mr Gordon Holmes.

It was sold to Mr C B Smith-Bingham in 1926 who lived at the adjoining Addington House. He demolished the house in 1928 appointing Mr F H Clark of London and Coventry to oversee the work.

An auction sale to dispose of fittings and materials was held in June 1928 with a further auction a month later.

Smith-Bingham turned to architect Michael Theodore Waterhouse (1889-1968) to replace the house with a smaller neo-Classical house (pictured below). This became a residence for the Czechoslovak Military Intelligence staff and their families during World War Two.

The 1928 Addington Manor, Buckinghamshire

The house was eventually sold to Lord Inchcape who founded the Addington Manor Equestrian Centre on the estate.

Addington Manor,
Addington, Winslow, Buckinghamshire (now demolished)


Built: 1803-1806, altered by Papworth in 1820s and 1830s
Architect: J.B. Papworth
Private apartments
Grade II* listed

Two storeys on basement, stucco 2:1:2 bays with altered sash windows; moulded cill strings, ground floor with brackets to windows. Greek fret cornice; blocking course, returned. Central bay has a Greek Doric portico with paired columns, steps to perron and half glazed door with enriched cornice. (Historic England)

Laleham Abbey, a Grade II* listed building was built in the Palladian style by renowned architect John Buanarotti Papworth (1775-1847) between 1803 and 1806. It was known at the time as Laleham Park but would soon become known as Laleham House.

The house is neo-Classical with a Doric portico. Inside are marble floors and columns, a semi-circular staircase and a cupola.

It was built as a second home for Richard Bingham, the 2nd Earl of Lucan (1764-1839). John Buanarotti Papworth was also responsible for alterations carried out on the house between 1827 and 1830.

Following the break-up of his marriage the 2nd Earl spent little time at Laleham House. He rented it to an exiled Queen Maria II of Portugal who lived here from 1829.

Following his death in 1839 the house passed to George Charles Bingham, the 3rd Earl of Lucan (1800-1888), who re-engaged John Buanarotti Papworth to complete further alterations including new stables and a farm.

George, an army officer, served in Turkey and the Crimea before reaching the rank of field-marshal. He commanded the cavalry in the Crimea and gave the much-disputed order for the historic advance of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, from which only 195 mounted men out of 673 returned.

Laleham House became the property of Charles George Bingham, the 4th Earl of Lucan (1830-1914), in 1888. Bingham was beset with financial problems for most of life and almost declared bankrupt in 1899 and 1913. He was seen to live a lifestyle that his income could no longer support. He raised money by selling large portions of the estate but it proved to be a miserable existence. However, he was a generous supporter of community affairs and gave Laleham land for use as a village hall and allowed the extension of the local church graveyard. He was also a friend of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, who regularly visited the house.

The house was inherited by George Charles Bingham, the 5th Earl of Lucan (1860-1949). He’d taken control of the Lucan estates in 1900 but spent little time at Laleham House. In 1915, a year after his father’s death, he rented the house to the Grand Duke Michael of Russia and the Countess Torby for the summer.

The 5th Earl formed the Lucan Estates Company in 1925 who were keen to obtain much needed income from their assets. Laleham House was sold to Lord Churston in 1928.

John Reginald Lopes Yarde-Buller, 3rd Baron Churston (1873-1930) arrived at Laleham House a broken man.

A serious fire had destroyed his Lupton House in Devon in 1926 razing the house’s upper-storey and interior. Some of the family heirlooms, including valuable paintings and pictures, were saved and removed to adjacent stables. However, a second fire in 1928 meant these were also destroyed.

It is not improbable that Lord Churston bought the house and its contents outright. He would live at Laleham House for two years until his death in 1930.

In 1932 his son, Richard-Yarde-Buller, 4th Baron Churston, was reported to have sold valuable works of art at Christie’s. These were treasures originally bought by Lord Lucan for Laleham House.

Sometime after the death of Lord Churston the house was used by nuns of the Sisters of St Peter the Apostle, Westminster who used the house as a convent school. It was now that the house would be known as Laleham Abbey and most of the surrounding land used as a public park.

Laleham House was eventually purchased by a property developer and converted into private apartments in 1981.

The Lucan family’s notoriety was renewed after the disappearance in 1974 of  Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan. In June 1975, in his absence, a coroner’s jury found that he had murdered his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett. There have been no confirmed sightings of Lord Lucan since his disappearance, and he was declared legally dead in February 2016.

Laleham Abbey,
Abbey Drive, Laleham, Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey, TW18 1SR

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