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 .
One hundred years ago, fire claimed another country house, one that was barely twenty-five years old.
February 1919 was a bad month for country house fires. One hundred years ago, this week, Offley Holes House, near Hitchin, in North Hertfordshire, which had been used for some time as a German prisoner-of-war camp, was totally destroyed by fire. The fire started in the orderly room and spread quickly through the mansion. The Hitchin Fire Brigade quickly arrived but found no water available due to a heavy frost, and so could only watch the progress of the flames.
All the prisoners were safely evacuated and taken to other quarters in Hitchin, but one of the guards was overcome by smoke and was in a critical condition in Hitchin Hospital, to which he was taken by a fire engine.
Offley Holes House was built after the death of Robert Curling in 1894. His will stated that no more than £4,000 should be spent erecting a house for the use of his nephew, Robert Sumner Curling, for life. Unfortunately, Robert “had no interest in the country and preferred to live in London.”
The terms of the will were nevertheless followed and W.A. Lucas was engaged to build the house.
In 1898, the house was tenanted to Percy St Clair Matthey on a twenty-one-year lease. The lease was re-assigned to Joseph Childs Priestley in 1904 and then to Major Robert B. Mervyn Richardson four years later.
In January 1918, despite fierce opposition from Percy Matthey, the War Office took possession of Offley Holes House and converted it into a German POW camp. The house was never rebuilt, the result of inadequate fire insurance.
Unlike many country houses requisitioned by the military in World War Two, this property survived and has even had parts of its former estate reinstated.
Despite the positive noises from estate agents, there appears to be a slowdown in the sale of large country houses. Take Shudy Camps Hall in Cambridgeshire, featured here two years at a guide price of £5 million, later dropped to £4.5 million, and now available to buyers at Savills for a much reduced £3.75 million. However, the latest price has stripped out the Elizabethan House and Park Lodge, now available as separate lots.
Shudy Camps Hall is a Grade II listed Queen Anne House. It is fundamentally a 17th century house with later 18th and 19th century additions.
Also referred to as Shudy Camps Park, it was built by Marmaduke Dayrell about 1700 and remained with the family for three generations. The Rev. Richard Dayrell offered the debt-burdened Shudy Camps Park estate for sale in 1898.
Shudy Camps Hall was bought by Arthur Gee, who perhaps thought his surname not grand enough and changed it to Maitland. He died in 1903 and the house, along with 300 acres, was sold to the Rev. Cannon F.F.S.M.Thornton, Vicar of Shudy Camps and Canon Emeritus of Ely Cathedral.
On his death in 1939 the estate was broken up – the parkland was requisitioned by the British Army and the house occupied by the Royal Air Force. It has now returned to private ownership and over the last few years the estate has been gradually pieced back together with the acquisition of various cottages within the grounds.
When the previous house on the site was demolished around 1796 John Nash became involved in the project to create Sundridge Park alongside landscape architect Humphrey Repton who was already working on the site.
Few London golf courses can boast such an impressive architectural legacy as Sundridge Park in the London Borough of Bromley suburbs.
In grounds laid out by renowned 19th-century landscape designer Humphry Repton stands the Grade I-listed John Nash mansion where Edward VII attended shooting parties at the estate, before the golf course was cut out of the valley.
The refurbished house is now The Mansion at Sundridge Park, with 22 flats by heritage developer City & Country, including some in a new annexe, priced from £425,000 to £2.5 million.
From the 17th century a succession of wealthy Londoners lived here and a three-storey brick house was built here early in the 18th century. Sir Claude Scott purchased that house in 1795 and demolished it on the advice of Humphry Repton, building the present mansion on an opposite slope and creating the park. The stuccoed stately home was designed by John Nash and the work was completed under the direction of Samuel Wyatt.
The park became a golf course, with a new clubhouse opened by prime minister Arthur James Balfour in 1903.
Sundridge Park mansion functioned as a luxury hotel until after the Second World War and became a management centre in 1956. A new block of residential accommodation was completed in 1970.
The grand staircase, plasterwork and 18th-century paintings have now been restored. The homes are reached via the estate’s lodge entrance and a half-mile drive beside the fairways.
By the 1970s, Hazelwood House was empty and ready for demolition, perfect for film-makers wanting a miserable location. All these years later, and a change of name, this is a thriving country house hotel.
The 1970s were a bleak time for the English country house. Take, for example, Hazelwood House at Abbots Langley, in Hertfordshire. In 1970, the rambling mansion was empty, typical of many similar properties, but it caught the attention of film director Bryan Forbes who chose it as the principal location for ‘The Raging Moon’.
The British film starred Malcolm McDowell and Nanette Newman (Forbes’s wife) and based on a book by Peter Marshall. One critic described it as ‘romance in wheelchairs’, considered unusual because of the sexual nature of the relationship between its two lead characters in a church-run home for the disabled.
Hazelwood House was used as the care home. The photography was miserable. The snowy winter scenes complement the austere atmosphere within the house, but it was a true reflection of society back then. ‘The Raging Moon’ had a depressing ending, but it reflected the darkness and gloom permeating from the Edwardian mansion. Take out the actors and this would have been a big, cold and draughty house, with broken windows and leaky roof.
Sad times, but Hazelwood House’s depressing appearance had already made it functional as a film location for Sam Wanamaker’s ‘The Executioner’ (1970) and several Hammer House of Horror productions. Much later, it would feature in a different and much happier kind of creation, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004).
It wasn’t an old house in the 1970s, built in 1908 on the site of an older property, but its history had been intriguing.
In 1810, Henry Botham (1749-1825), a wealthy Londoner, had bought 42-acres of land in the Hertfordshire countryside, subsequently acquiring a further 30-acres from the Earl of Essex, to create surrounding parkland in which to establish his country residence. Hazelwood House was most likely completed by 1812. Following his death in 1825, aged 76, it remained home to his widow, Lydia Payne, until her own demise in 1838.
The estate was bought by Sir Henry Robinson-Montagu (1798-1883), 6th Lord Rokeby, the second son of 4th Baron Rokeby. He had been commissioned into the 3rd Foot Guards in 1814 and fought at Battle of Quatre Bras and Battle of Waterloo as a 16-year-old Ensign in June 1815. At the outbreak of the Crimean War he was made a Major-General and commanded the 1st Division. He was married in 1826 to Magdalen Crofts, the young widow of Frederick Crofts and daughter of Lt-Col Thomas Huxley, and later took the title of 6th Baron Rokeby of Armagh on the death of his elder brother in April 1847. He also owned agricultural estates at Eryholme (North Yorkshire) and Denton (Northumberland), Cambridge and Kent.
Henry died at the age of 85 on 25th May 1883 at Stratford Place, London, and was buried in Clewer churchyard. The peerage became extinct on his death.
Hazelwood House was bought by Admiral Ralph (Peter) Cator (1829-1903), the son of Peter Cator of Beckenham, Kent, and nephew of Major-General William Cator, CB, former Director-General of Artillery and of Vice-Admiral B.C. Cator.
Ralph Cator had entered the Navy in 1843 and was present in the Rodney in the attack of the forts of Sebastopol, in October 1854, and for some time commanded her tender, the Danube steamer. In the latter vessel he served in the early part of June 1855, with the flotilla in the Sea of Azoff, where he assisted in destroying a vast accumulation of stores belonging to the Russian Government, and displayed merit which he was mentioned with praise in the dispatches of the senior officer. On the nights of 16 and 17 of June 1855, prior to the unsuccessful attack made by allied troops upon the Malakoff and Redan, the Danube was engaged in pouring a shower of rockets on the town and sea defences of Sebastopol.
As Senior of the Furious, Cator was attached to the Naval Brigade, at the storming of the city of Canton in December 1857, on which occasion he assisted in burning the houses in the vicinity of the North Gate, a service executed under a sharp fire and with considerable difficulty, the houses containing little inflammable matter. His conduct during the operations against Canton was brought to the notice of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Michael Seymour, by whom he was again mentioned for his services on shore while belonging to the Calcutta, at the destruction of the Chinese fortifications at the entrance of the Peiho River, in May 1858.
Cator received the Crimean medal and Azoff and Sebastopol clasps, the Turkish medal and the Medjidie. He was promoted Naval ADC to the Queen from 1879 to 1882, from which he was appointed Rear Admiral, and was the inventor of an ‘alarm buoy’, which was approved by the Admiralty and supplied to the fleet.
He left Hazelwood House in the 1890s and died at Chelsea Court, London, in 1903.
In 1896, Hazelwood House was acquired by Reverend Henry Steuart Gladstone (1856-1929), ‘a tall, spare distinguished-looking man of serious aspect, though his disposition and manners were pleasant enough’.
Gladstone had been the Curate of Fawley and was the Vicar of Great Barton, Suffolk, between 1886 and 1897, and the Vicar of Honingham, near Norwich. He was the husband of Mary Cecil Elizabeth Wilhelmina Gage, daughter of Lt-General Hon. Edward Thomas Gage, Governor of Woolwich, whom he married in December 1882. Most notably, he was the cousin of William Ewart Gladstone, the Prime Minister.
He first leased the house to various London gentlemen, amongst those being Lord Roberts, its proximity to Ascot being an attraction. However, in 1907, he decided to live in the house himself, spending over £1,000 on renovations only to see the house gutted by a large fire which occurred on the 8 March 1908.
The family pictures were saved but little remained of the house. Assisted by an insurance compensation of £10,500, Gladstone rebuilt Hazelwood House, using the architects Hubbard and Moore, similar in appearance to the first, but sited at a different angle to the ornamental grounds. The mansion that we eventually saw in ‘The Raging Moon’ was built in Queen Anne-style, in brown-red brick with lighter red brick, stone and white painted wood dressings, with a hipped tiled roof.
Henry Steuart Gladstone died in 1929 leaving unsettled property valued at £121,155 gross, with net personalty of £106,704.
Hazelwood House was sold to Andrew Barclay Walker, the son of Sir Andrew Barclay Walker, 1st Baronet, of Osmaston Manor in Derbyshire. However, his occupation of the house was cut short by his death in June 1930.
The house was almost immediately sold to Francis Edwin Fisher, a substantial landowner, farmer, meat wholesaler and businessman who frequently travelled the world with his wife, the explorer and journalist, Violet Cressy-Marcks.
During their absences the house was left empty or rented out, most notably to the Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1892-1975), an exile from his country after the invasion by Italy in 1936.
Back in England, Francis Fisher and his wife spent most time at their townhouse, in Princes Gate, South Kensington, London. The outbreak of World War Two provided a unique opportunity for Hazelwood House when it became the wartime offices for Illustrated News Ltd and Odhams Press. Bruce Ingram, the editor of The Illustrated London News (from 1905) and The Sketch, had run his company for years and realised that wartime bombing posed a threat to their offices at Inveresk House in Aldwych, London. Throughout the war years readers were instead encouraged to write to the Illustrated News’ temporary offices at Hazelwood House. His publications were regarded as the ‘Great Eight’ publications and also included The Sphere, The Tatler, The Graphic, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Bystander and Eve.
Part of the estate was taken over by the Ministry of Defence for production of Mosquito and Halifax aircraft.
Francis Fisher retained ownership of the estate until the late 1950s. Hazelwood House went through various uses, but stood empty for long periods, except for brief appearances on the big screen, until 1971.
Later, Paul Edwin Hember, the owner of several small businesses, bought the house and changed its name to Hunton Park, a name still associated with it today. The mansion’s fortunes changed for the better, eventually becoming the Hunton Park Hotel, part of the De Vere chain, until bought in 2017 by Ravi Ruparelia, a London-based hotel and catering businessman.
Before we leave Hunton Park, it is worth reminding ourselves of that piece of former parkland acquired by the Ministry of Defence during World War Two. It became Leavesden Aerodrome and the former aircraft factories were used by Rolls- Royce to manufacture helicopter engines until 1993. At its peak in 1990, the airfield handled some 60,000 aircraft movements and remained open until 1994.
In 1995, the site was purchased by Third Millennium Group and part of it used to create Leavesden Film Studios. The 80-hectare studio complex is better known now as Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, also home to the ‘Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter’.
“To all outward appearances the mansion had the appearance of being unoccupied, and the spacious garden was in the same neglected condition as it had been for many years.” One hundred years later, nothing has changed.
This week, one hundred years ago, the discovery of an illicit whisky still in an old mansion gave considerable food for gossip in a Leeds suburb.
The scene of the discovery was the century-old mansion known as Fernville House at Roundhay, which stood in rural splendour until it became overshadowed by what was known as the Fernville ‘Garden City’, a small colony of ‘modern’ residences.
The mansion house (also known as Fearneville) had been built about 1820 by a Leeds merchant, and Thomas Louis Oxley, a surgeon dentist, later lived here, letting about 100 acres of land as a farm. In the 1870s, the mansion with about 49-acres of pleasure grounds, had been occupied by William Middleton JP, and then Samuel Sykes, after which the estate was sold for development on garden city lines. The last tenant had been Alderman Alfred John Knowles (1836-1918), a well-known Leeds provisions merchant, and for the last ten years or so had been unoccupied.
In November 1918, negotiations had taken place which resulted in Fernville House being sold for £2,000 to a Jewish businessman, who, it was understood would turn the former country house into a business place. Those who had negotiated the sale had asked what the place was going to be used for, presuming that it would become a clothing factory. The reply had been a definite ‘no’.
The new owner had not been long in taking possession, and it had been understood by some people in the neighbourhood that the house was being used as a laundry. On Saturday 1 February 1919, two officers from the Leeds special police force had seen a large cask being driven away from the house on a cart. They weren’t satisfied with the explanation given as to the contents of the cask, and at midnight a raiding party of special and regular police had taken possession of the house.
The officers came across ample evidence that spirit distilling operations had been conducted here. An attempt had been made to wreck some of the plant, which was unmistakeably a whisky still, and several barrels were removed from the premises.
Neighbours at Fernville House told the Yorkshire Evening Post that no serious attempt had been made to put the mansion into a state fit for habitation. Joiners had been seen doing odd repairs, and to fix a new wooden gate to the entrance which led to outbuildings of the house. To all outward appearances the mansion had the appearance of being unoccupied, and the spacious garden was in the same neglected condition as it had been for many years.
In June 1919, writs were issued by the Commissioners of the Customs and Excise upon Joseph Levi, a wines and spirits merchant, in connection with the illicit whisky still. The total penalties imposed on Levi, his wife, Sarah, and two others amounted to £1,960. (Sarah Levi was again convicted for similar offences in 1930).
The events preceded what would turn out to be a torturous century ahead. One hundred years later, the condition of Fearnville House (as it is now known) is even more precarious than it was then.
During the early part of the twentieth century the Ralphes lived here. The land was sold in the 1950s and the house was converted into flats while still retaining the pillared porch and a fine staircase inside.
By the 1970s, the house was again derelict and seemingly abandoned entirely in 1993. The council had evicted its residents, boarded up the building and it has been left ever since. In 2008, it was sold on the instruction of Leeds City Council for £228,000. The following year it was sold again, reputedly to become a nursing home. The last planning application in 2012 was abandoned the following year after various objections, including opposition that the premises would need a long period of observation for bats, along with doubts from the coal board who stated previous mine workings might undermine the property. There was also a further rejection from the council’s Highways Department who said a nearby road would have to be made one-way and restrictions, due to the entrance width, meant the number of dwellings was unsustainable.
Fearnville House is now in perilous condition, its interiors collapsing, and the grounds open to vandals and fly-tippers. Now marooned within housing estates, it has been the subject of frequent visits from urban explorers, who, if nothing else, have at least highlighted the sad state that the once-grand house is now in.
A forgotten mansion, once rooted in the countryside, now standing quietly within a popular park surrounded by housing estates.
Morden Park House, in the London Borough of Merton, is a small Georgian country house, that once stood in a large swathe of parkland. This land was once owned by Westminster Abbey and later owned by the Garth family until the estate was split in two.
In 1768, Richard Garth, in partnership with the London merchant and distiller John Ewart, procured a private act of Parliament permitting the creation of the Morden Park estate. The double-fronted brown-brick Morden Park House was built in 1770 as a retreat for the Ewart family, who remained until 1788.
Morden Park House should not be confused with Morden Hall Park, a much larger property, built by Sir Richard Garth in the 1770s, and now a National Trust property. This was sold to Gilliat Hatfield (1827-1906) a member of the firm of James Taddy and Co, tobacco and snuff manufacturers, in the 1870s.
A sale notice of 1879 described Morden Park House as a “desirable mansion on high ground, commanding extensive and diversified views, with an ornamental entrance lodge and carriage approach through an avenue from the high road from London to Epsom, with stabling, coach-houses, extensive gardens, pleasure grounds, shrubberies, with cottages, orchard, and park-like meadow land containing about 60-acres.”
After this Morden Park passed through different owners. From the late 1780s the estate was in the hands of the Polhill family and between the 1880s and the 1910s, the house was occupied by the banker John Wormald. The entire estate was eventually purchased by Gilliat Hatfeild, the owner of Morden Hall Park, thus reuniting the two estates.
Morden Park House was tenanted and after Hatfeild’s death, it passed to his son, Gilliat Edward Hatfeild (1864-1941).
For a brief period following the Second World War, the building became the headquarters for the local golf club, and was later purchased from the Hatfeild family by Merton and Morden Urban District Council. The house and 90 acres were preserved as public open space, the house used as council offices for the Parks Department between 1965 and 1985.
Like many country houses, Morden Park House suffered years of neglect and from 1985 onwards stood vacant for lengthy periods. The Grade II* listed house was eventually restored and is now the local register office, subject of a £1.8 million restoration using money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
However, its future has been the subject of speculation, after the Labour council announced plans to close it. It now appears that this decision has been reversed and the register office will remain open.