One of the finest specimens of an old English Manor House that has played host to Kings and Queens.
The Manor House of Ockwells, or Ockholt, as it was called when Sir John Norreys, High Sheriff of Berkshire, and a courtier of Henry VI, started to build it between 1440 and 1450, is one of the most complete and satisfying examples of an English manor house of the fifteenth century. It embodies all that is best in the design and workmanship of the Middle Ages and has some remarkably contemporary heraldic glass of eighteen shields of arms, two of them Royal, in the east windows of the Great Hall.
Norreys’ house, which stands on land at Bray, near
Maidenhead, given to Ricardo De Norreys by Henry III in 1267, was completed in
1466, the year after his death. In his will, dated April 4th, 1465,
he is recorded as having left a sum of £40 to complete the building of a
chapel. When completed it formed part of the manor buildings, but fire
destroyed most of it in 1720.
Much of the uniqueness of Ockwells lies in the fact that it
is constructed entirely of local materials. It still retains undisturbed today
in its entirety the massive oak framework and timber which the Windsor forests
originally gave it. It retains also the pleasantly symmetrical architectural
features of Tudor building. Ockwells is built round its small Cloister Court.
The Great Hall also has its notable features: the massive oak screen with
complementary service quarters behind it, a 24 ft long table made of two
planks, fine armour and furniture and a large, colourful Flemish tapestry.
Nearly a century after Sir John had completed his manor house it passed, on the marriage of Elizabeth Norreys, to Sir Thomas ffetiplace. And Elizabeth’s daughter, Katherine, in turn, took Ockwells as part of her dowry on marrying Sir Francis Englefield. It was this Lady Elizabeth’s close friendship with Elizabeth I which is known to have brought the Queen to Ockwells on many occasions. King Charles I used it for some time as a shooting box and when George IV visited he was so pleased with its architectural beauty that the style was introduced at Windsor in the building of King’s College in the Great Park.
In about 1600 a new staircase was added, the hall furnished
with wainscoting and some new chimney pieces added. The fabric of the building
then fell into decline until the late 19th Century when Charles Grenfell moved
some of the glass to his home at Taplow Court for safe keeping. In 1885, his
son William offered to return the glass if a new owner would grant him a 99
year lease of the manor in return. By this time, Sir Stephen Leach came to the
rescue and he stripped the whole frame back and repaired it. It was then
purchased by Sir Edward Barry, another enthusiastic antiquarian, who recast the
building in its present form in stages, enlarging the dining room, inserting fireplaces
and windows and moving the Jacobean staircase to its present position. By the
1950s, Ockwells was owned by Mr S.H. Barnett who, at the time, was praised for
preserving rather than destroying the fabric of the house.
The present owners
have owned Ockwells Manor since 1986 and with the help of Mansfield Thomas and
Partners of Hertfordshire, returned it to its present order.
A house with a fine reputation and family links to Nostell Priory. The advent of the industrial revolution altered its history and eventual loss.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.*
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.
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.
Nothing remains of Beaupré Hall, an unloved manor house, that was eventually abandoned. In the 1960s, developers replaced it with a housing estate.
In the late 1960s, the owner of a new bungalow in the long-straddling village of Outwell, that lie on both sides of the River Nene in Norfolk, gazed out at the remains of a stone building in his back garden. What to do with them? In the years to come, these would presumably have been removed and the gardens landscaped to match the modern house. The stones might well have come in handy.
Over fifty years later, there are no traces of those ancient stone relics.
Once upon a time, this was a house called Beaupré Hall, erected in the early sixteenth century by the Beaupre family, who also held the manors of Sautrey, Wells, Norton, Hakbech and Thurning. The estates became the property of Edmund Beaupré, and eventually absorbed into the Beaupré estate.
The house was built between 1500 and 1530, added to later with a castellated gate house, and subsequently extended and altered by members of the Beaupré and Bell families. Dorothy Beaupré had married Sir Robert Bell in 1559 and succeeded to the manor. He was a speaker in the House of Commons of England and the Beaupré estate stayed in his family for generations.
By the end of the eighteenth century, the house had fallen into disrepair, the family fortune squandered by Beaupré Bell in the late 17th century onwards. He was said to have been a keen antiquary, more interested in collecting relics than spending money on the upkeep of the old manor house.
His son, also Beaupré Bell, died unmarried in 1741 and the house passed to his sister, Elizabeth, and her husband William Greaves. They made repairs to the house and demolished those parts beyond restoration. It was inherited by their daughter, Jane Greaves, who had married Charles W. Townley of Fulbourn in Cambridgeshire.
In 1889, a correspondent, known simply as H.K., wrote in The Methodist Recorder:
“Far back into centuries I should have to go in imagination to find the man who built Beaupré Hall, with its gabled and mullioned windows and beautiful gateways and courts and porches, with its picturesque towers and chimneys outside, and its wilderness of oak-panelled rooms and passages inside.”
Charles Townley thought the house surplus to requirement and had unsuccessfully attempted to dispose of it at auction in 1888. The house was probably tenanted because, at this time, Beaupré Hall was occupied by three ladies – the Misses Wilsons – who kept an open house for visiting Methodist preachers.
In the 1890s, Beaupré Hall was finally sold to the Newling family who remained until the twentieth century. On hindsight, the problems for the old manor house started here. A gale in 1915 severely damaged the building, and a chapel in the north-west range had its roof torn off and allowed to become derelict.
Christopher Hussey, the architectural writer, visited Beaupré Hall in 1923, its condition was such that he anticipated its eventual destruction.
Beaupré’s biggest problem came in the form of the Royal Air Force, who requisitioned the hall during the Second World War. Afterwards, the mansion was in serious disrepair, with substantial roof damage.
There were those who almost loved the house and might have saved it. In 1947, the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, gave it listed status, but little else. A fire in 1953 worsened its condition, and it was left to Mrs Kingsman, (formerly the wife of Edward Newling, who had married Stuart Kingsman), to offer the hall to the National Trust. It declined the offer, becoming the second heritage body that turned its back on Beaupré Hall.
The house and 13-acres of land was put up for sale and had two subsequent owners. Nevertheless, Beaupré Hall was quickly becoming a ruin.
During the 1950s, barrack huts left over from RAF occupation were used to house students on the ‘Holidays with Pay Scheme’, the ruins of Beaupré Hall no doubt providing an adventure.
The ‘Victoria County History’ reported that much of the building was still standing, but the development of a modern housing estate in its former grounds was a shadow quickly advancing on the house. A photograph taken by Country Life magazine in 1963 showed new bungalows in front of the broken-down house.
Nine years later, the Ministry gave permission for the house to be demolished, the only reminder being the name of the road on which the housing estate stands… Beaupré Avenue .
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
A significant country house re-emerges from obscurity, this prestigious Grade II* listed mansion stands in a parkland setting with far reaching views across the Trent and Witham Valleys.
A lot has been said about the views from Harmston Hall, on the Lincoln Cliff overlooking the River Witham. From its parkland, on a clear day, you can see the Derbyshire Hills, some 60 miles or so away. This spectacle is foremost in the estate agent’s selling brief, along with the floors – oak floors, oak floors inlaid with mahogany detailing, and lots of pine floors. Yes. A lot has been made about the wooden floors here.
The oddest thing is that outside the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, not many people have heard of Harmston Hall. The fact that it has re-emerged from obscurity is due to it being offered on the open market at Savills with a guide price of £3.45 million.
The land on which it stands once belonged to the Thorold family, resident here since 1456. The present Queen Anne house was started by Sir Charles Thorold (1655-1709), but it was his younger brother, Sir George Thorold who completed it in about 1710. The mansion became the summer retreat of the Lord Mayor of London, a man who acquired a baronetcy and distinguished title ten years later. Sir George added a tall north front to the house, but this was pulled down in 1892 when the family departed Harmston Hall for good.
The buyer was William Henry Morton, a farmer, magistrate and county alderman, who, in 1892, spent a considerable sum of money altering the house, employing Lincoln architects William Mortimer and his son, William Malkinson Mortimer, to carry out the designs. A new front was created in the same style as the original building, incorporating a new entrance and porch, surmounted by a tower. The roof was stripped of its tiles and recovered in green slate, while new windows were added to the upper storeys. Inside, all the rooms were completely renovated, but despite his extravagance, Morton only stayed at Harmston Hall for six years.
The estate was sold in 1898 to Nathaniel Clayton Cockburn, a grandson of Nathaniel Clayton, a Lincoln iron founder. Its new owner was a military man, a Major in the Imperial Yeomanry, who ended up serving in Palestine during World War One. Cockburn died in 1924 and its big rooms briefly became the domain of his sister.
The inevitability was that Harmston Hall was far too big and expensive to maintain. Therefore, it was no surprise when it was sold to the Lincolnshire Board for the Mentally Defective, who opened it as a ‘Colony for Mental Defectives’ in 1935… and consigned the country house to decades of bleak insignificance. Just imagine the despairing shrieks from the inmates echoing through those long corridors. This was a time when Britain wasn’t particularly good at dealing with mental health… many of its occupants probably shouldn’t have been there at all. The hospital was eventually absorbed into the National Health Service (NHS) and buildings spread across the parklands.
Harmston Hall Hospital later became an administrative block and closed for good in 1989.
As always happened, the abandoned hospital was left to decay – broken windows, leaking roof, rotten floors and ceilings – its former institutional use adding to the air of dereliction.
Its saviour was Peter Sowerby, a local property developer, who bought the estate in 1996. There were probably those who thought him mad enough to have been one of the hospital’s former residents. However, when Sowerby flattened the hospital outbuildings and built a new housing development, there appeared to be some wisdom attached to him after all. He doubled the population of Harmston and transformed the quiet village into an important commuter settlement for Lincoln.
Decisively, Harmston Hall itself was restored and turned back into a family home over a period of ten years. In 2008, it was on the market for £4.5 million, considerably more than the guide price being asked for today.
There are few signs of its former use. The house is entered through a panelled entrance lobby with stone flooring. This leads into a Reception Hall, complete with Rococo chimneypiece, Georgian fanlight doorways and Ionic columns in front of the staircase. The principal rooms include the main Drawing Room, along with a former Ballroom (complete with the oak flooring and inlaid mahogany detailing). The Dining Room and yellow Sitting Room all have original Queen Anne wooden panelling with pine and oak floors respectively. An ornate Billiards Room is embellished with mahogany panelling, carvings, huge mahogany doors along with decorative cornices, and, of course, more oak flooring. Upstairs there are seven primary bedrooms.
Being a former Historic Formula 1 Champion, it is no surprise that Sowerby has also included garaging for 20 cars. The big difference from its former existence as a country house is the addition of both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.
The Grade II* listed house stands within 13-acres of land, including a terraced garden with those spectacular views, and a further 30-acres of former parkland available separately.
For the first time in 65 years this house might be going back into private ownership, but it will require deep pockets to do so
In 1936, there was excitement and relief when Lord Brocket, who as Mr Ronald Nall-Cain had represented Wavertree as its MP until 1934, bought Bramshill Park. This country house had been the residence of the Cope family for 200 years, but there was a danger of it passing out of private ownership as had happened to so many other mansions at the time.
It was bought as a second home for his family in more rural surroundings and further from London than Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire.
As it turned out, Lord Brocket, a man of considerable wealth, was its last private owner. He held on to the property until 1953 before selling it to the Government. However, sixty-five years later there is a chance that Bramshill Park might become a family residence once again.
This is a big country house. Bramshill Park is a magnificent Grade I listed mainly Georgian mansion, set within Grade I listed parkland, woodland and lake. It stands just over three miles away from Hartley Wintney, a charming country village in Hampshire. It is now being marketed at Knight Frank as a conversion opportunity, price on application, but expect to pay in excess of £20 million for the privilege, and then there will be conversion costs on top.
Bramshill dates to the Doomsday Book of 1086 when the estate was held by Hugh de Port. In 1347 Sir Thomas Foxley, Constable of Windsor Castle, was granted permission to enclose 2,500 acres of land as a deer park at Bramshill and Hazeley. Sir Thomas was responsible for the construction of the noble mansion at Bramshill which has drawn comparisons with Windsor Castle. The mansion then passed to the 11th Lord Zouche of Harringworth. Zouche needed a large country mansion to consolidate his position at Court and to make a statement that he was a force to be reckoned with. He reconstructed the house between 1605 and 1615.
Lord Zouche was a well-travelled and cultivated gentleman and it is to him that the creation of Bramshill House, largely as it appears today, is credited together with its walled gardens, maze and lake. The Henley family bought the estate in 1640 and remained at Bramshill until 1699 when it was sold to Sir John Cope whose descendants remained at Bramshill for 236 years. The Cope’s had a significant influence on both the fabric of the building, and its landscape. Much of what we know of the changes to the house and grounds over this period are described in a book published in 1883 by Sir William Cope, the main phases of internal change appear to be as follows:
1720. Introduction of the mezzanine floor and Queen Anne Stairs.
1812. Construction of the “Dark” corridor in the courtyard to allow independent access to the first-floor rooms and improve internal circulation.
1850-90. Incremental changes, mainly replacement of failing external fabric and re-organisation of the ground floor of the north wing. Introduction of bathrooms.
1920. Removal of partitions and walls from the former billiard room and “Red” dining room to create the Morning room.
In 1936, Bramshill was bought from the Cope family by Ronald Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket. During the Second World War, the house was used by the Red Cross as a maternity home for evacuee mothers from Portsmouth, and afterwards as a home for the exiled King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania and their family.
Following its sale in the 1953 to the British Government it became the Police Staff College in 1960, and was later home to the European Police College, the house and its outbuildings operating as a conference and training centre. Owing to escalating maintenance costs the property was put on the market for £25 million in 2013 and later sold to City & Country for £20 million in August 2014.
The property is now being offered for sale as a private mansion, along with a former coach house and assembly dining hall. It has the benefit of consents pending to restore it back to a single-family residence.
Slavery, evacuees, refugees and a donkey called Petronella
Back in 2014, this country house hit the market with a guide price of £3.1 million. Unsold, apparently unwanted, it remains for sale with a vastly reduced guide price of £2.25 million. Easterlands at Sampford Arundel, near Wellington, is an impressive residence surrounded by its own parkland with secondary accommodation, traditional outbuildings and mature grounds and gardens.
Knight Frank, who are marketing the property, believe the house dates to the late 19th century. However, it is probably earlier than that, possibly early 1830s because its architectural style is typically Georgian.
Easterlands House was most likely built for William Bellet who bought the land in 1816 from Richard Yendle of Uplowman, yeoman, and Jeremiah Woodbury of Exeter, innkeeper. His daughter Elizabeth married John Shattock (1792-1860), an English landed proprietor and merchant, who made his fortune at Kingston, in Jamaica, and returned to England between 1831 and 1833. Shattock was connected to Jamaica’s slave trade and duly awarded compensation by the British Government when the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833. There were two small awards, for a group of about ten enslaved people in Good Air, St. Andrew, and for the enslaved people on St. Mary, Jamaica.
A man of immense wealth, the couple settled at Easterlands and when John Bellett Shattock died in 1860 it passed to his eldest son, the Rev. John Bellett Shattock of Stalbridge, Dorset, who put the estate up for sale in 1862.
Easterlands was sold to Charles Moore in 1864. He was a Liverpool merchant and appears to have let the fully furnished property. Occupants included Charles Hutton Potts (1823-1886) and Major-General Cookson, who was a yearly tenant when the estate was put up for sale again in 1876. Failing to find a buyer, it went back on the market in 1878 under the instruction of Mary Louisa Moore of Clontarf, Dublin.
The estate was sold to Robert Arundel Were (1822-1892), a solicitor and gentleman of Wellington, who held many appointments with local authorities including Superintendent Registrar Clerk to the Wellington Bench, the Board of Guardians, the Rural Sanitary Unit and Milverton Highway Board. When he died in May 1892 the estate was put up for sale just weeks later.
It remained unsold and was let to Arthur Tristram E. Jervoise before the house and estate of 140 acres were bought for nearly £9,000 by Frederick George Slessor in 1897. Slessor, chartered civil engineer, was the son of Major-General Slessor of Sidmouth, Devon, and remained until his death in 1905.
After going to auction in 1906 it was bought by Colonel Joseph Henry Moore, a retired officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He’d spent 30 years in the Army, serving in the Ashanti War, the defence of the hospital at Foomana and in the Afghan War the occupation of Kandahar and the Battle of Khelal-i-Ghilzai. He later held several appointments in India and was principal medical officer both at Quetta and Bombay.
Colonel Moore enjoyed Easterlands only briefly. He died there in 1908 but his family remained until 1924 when it was offered for sale by private treaty.
Up until this point, Easterlands had slipped between families and it wasn’t until Alderman Gerald Fox bought the property in 1925 that the house enjoyed any stability. He moved here with his wife, Beatrice Cornish-Bowden, youngest daughter of Admiral Cornish-Bowden, of Newton Abbot, and was affectionately known as ‘Bee’.
Gerald Fox (1865-1947), was the second son of Joseph Hoyland Fox, for many years the chairman of Fox Bros, an old family woollen business at Wellington. He was educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A.. He joined Lloyds Bank prior to becoming a partner in Fox, Fowler and Co, a Westcountry private banking firm, afterwards absorbed into Lloyds Bank itself. He was also a director of Devon & Courtenay Clay Company, the Commercial Union Assurance Company and of Candy & Company, a pottery firm at Heathfield. Aside his business interests, he also managed to be secretary of Somerset County Rugby Club and Somerset County Cricket Club. (Fox Brothers still survives and is run by ‘Dragons’ Den’ star Deborah Meaden who purchased a majority stake in 2009).
As the current sale particulars point out, Gerald Fox will be best-remembered for taking in several evacuees and refugees during World War Two, when several rooms in the house were converted to accommodate them. Easterlands also became the headquarters for the local Home Guard and had a near miss in 1940 when a German bomber dropped a 100lb incendiary bomb. It cleared the house and fell into the lake causing no damage except to a tree.
After his Gerald Fox’s death in 1947, his widow remained until the early 1950s before selling up and moving to the Quantocks.
Easterlands appears to have then been occupied by Mr Hans K.E. Richter and then Lieutenant-Colonel R.S. Rogers, both of whom little is known. However, in 1963, the estate was bought with great fanfare by Mr Edward Du Cann, the Conservative MP for Taunton and Economic Secretary to the Treasury. In later years he would become chairman of the 1922 Committee, the Conservative party’s parliamentary group.
Edward Du Cann (1924-2017) and his wife had been living in temporary accommodation while they waited for the sale to be finalised. When it was concluded they lived a very public life at Easterlands along with a donkey called Petronella.
He became a well-known businessman with his Unicorn Group, was a director of Keyser Ullman, a banking firm that collapsed in 1974, and later served as a director and chairman of Lonhro (later collapsing owing £10 million to creditors).
After Easterlands he owned nearby Cothay Manor which he was forced to sell after several legal disputes over debts and was made bankrupt in 1993.
The current owners arrived at unlisted Easterlands during the 1980s.
According to Knight Frank, the main reception rooms are well-proportioned with high ceilings and have elegant detailing including substantial fireplaces and panelling. As might be expected Easterlands provides the traditional room configuration – entrance hall, study/drawing room, dining room, garden room, billiard room, kitchen/breakfast room, pantry, larder, utility room, estate office, three cloakrooms, boot room and extensive cellars. Its master bedroom has two en-suite dressing rooms and bathrooms, in addition to a further six bedrooms and bathrooms.
The house also comes with extensive outbuildings including a two-bedroom cottage, a three-bedroom lodge, a coach house with stabling and stores, as well as barns.
Within its 44.4 -acres are a walled garden, hard tennis court, covered swimming pool, a former vineyard, mature gardens, woodland and a lake.