A turreted property, this castle in the country has been refurbished by the present owners, taking advantage of grand period features, and it has been home to some very prominent people.
This four-bedroom property may need to come with a warning to heritage connoisseurs. The east wing of Callingwood Hall, at Tatenhill near Burton-on-Trent, is on the market at Fine & Country with offers wanted over £1 million. The Grade II listed country house is believed to date back from the early 18th century, with later 19th century additions, and was originally part of Lord Burton’s Rangemore estate. Look beyond the ‘Great British’ theme and you’ll see that its period features are still evident.
A spokesman for estate agent says: “A simply stunning turreted property, this castle in the country has been thoroughly refurbished by the present owners to offer a comfortable modern family home with an abundance of grand period features, coupled with an impressive facade and captivating views.”
Callingwood Hall was probably built for Sir Theophilus de Biddulph and remained in the family until it was sold by his great-grandson in 1796 to the Evans family of Allestree. It descended to Spencer Stone and was later occupied by Major Edmund Probyn. The estate was sold in 1889 to Michael Arthur Bass, 1st Baron Burton (1837-1909), a brewer, philanthropist and Liberal politician. The Bass family descended from William Bass, who founded the brewery business of Bass & Co in Burton upon Trent in 1777.
Lord Burton’s principal home was Rangemore Hall meaning that for large periods Callingwood Hall was tenanted. Amongst the notable residents were the Rev Edward Ash Were, former Bishop of Stafford and Bishop Suffragen of Derby, Alexander William Stopford Sackville, Sir Digby Lawson, Captain Maurice J. Kingscote and Colonel James Alister Eadie, chairman of Wilson’s Brewery, Newton Heath, Manchester. Callingwood was probably sold in the late 1940s.
Parts of Grade II listed Ripple Hall date back from the 1400s with a front elevation added in the 18th century and later Victorian additions.
The house appears to have been rebuilt about 1780-1790 for Fleetwood Parkhurst, who died in 1801, and whose widow, Anne, stayed on until 1818. Parkhust was descended from Bishop Parkhurst, the celebrated author of the Hebrew and English Lexicon.
His son, also named Fleetwood, was a Rugby and Oxford contemporary of Walter Savage Landor, the writer, poet and activist, a regular visitor to the house during his parent’s time. It appears that while affection grew between Landor and the old squire, he did not always hit it off with the son.
The son, Fleetwood Parkhurst, was a clergyman and became Rector of Epsom as well as a man of property. He retired to Ripple Hall but died in 1844 while walking in Cheltenham after ‘a visitation from God’. In a letter from Landor, his opinion of his old companion was not altogether favourable. “I am shocked and grieved at his death. A happier one, however, there could not be.”
In 1847, the house was occupied by John Christopher Dowdeswell, a barrister-at-law, the second son of John Edmund Dowdeswell, a Senior Master of the High Court of Chancery. It is possible that Dowdeswell had tenanted Ripple Hall. He died three years later, in 1850, but the house had been in the hands of John William Empson since 1848.
Empson, also of Yokefleet Hall, Howden, was a large landowner in the East Riding of Yorkshire and a Justice of the Peace. He died in 1893 but had spent considerably more time in Yorkshire than in Worcestershire. In 1887, the house appears to have been tenanted by another Dowdeswell, this time Arthur Christopher Dowdeswell. Empson’s wife, Ellen Georgina, long since removed from Ripple Hall, died at Kiltermain In Ireland in 1908.
At the turn of the 20th century, Ripple Hall was in the hands of his widow, Ellen Georgina Empson, but she appears to have been living at Kiltermain in Ireland. The house was briefly occupied by Captain Freeman and afterwards by John Ripley. It was sold in 1907, a year before Ellen Empson died.
The new owner of Ripple Hall was Miss A. J. Behrens, who remained until 1931. It passed to Edward F. Gray, the son of the Reverend Edward Gray of Wembley Park, Middlesex, and Donnington Hall at Ledbury. He had been educated at Haileybury and Oriel College, Oxford, and was in the Consular service for thirty years before retiring to Ripple Hall.
In World War One he had been in Consul in Oslo and Bergen in Norway. From 1922 up until his retirement he served in America, being Consul-General at Boston for the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.
Gray died in 1960 and Ripple Hall was bought by Mr and Mrs Hugo Baldwin Huntington-Whiteley.
The house has similar characteristics to Ham Court and several houses in nearby Upton-upon-Severn. It has a five-window range with full-height curved bows to the east and west end walls. At one time the house had been covered in ivy, thoughtfully removed by Miss Behrens during her tenure.
Ripple Hall is on the market at Andrew Grant with a guide price of £2.25 million.
The fact that this mansion has been the subject of a recent planning application for retirement accommodation has put the former country house back into the spotlight after being ‘lost’ for over 70 years.
To explain the story behind this, we must go back to April 1945, when newspapers reported that the Yorkshire Electricity Power Company had bought the Scarcroft Lodge estate for between £30,000 and £40,000. It became their headquarters, later belonging to the Yorkshire Electricity Board and subsequently the offices of Npower.
Because this Grade II listed house was lost to commerce meant that there were relatively few old images available. However, two black and white images have emerged from June 1907, showing Scarcroft Lodge still in rural bliss.
Scarcroft Lodge was built in 1830 by Quaker wool merchant Newman Cash. He came to Leeds from Coventry in 1815, and his business flourished as he expanded trade with America. By 1826 he was so successful that he was able to buy an extensive estate around Scarcroft, and he then built his grand country house.
The house and estate were bought in 1852 by Robert Tennant, a successful Leeds solicitor, who increased the size of the estate, added an ornamental lake, and expanded the house. In 1888 the estate and house were bought by the Earl of Mexborough who carried out refurbishments and installed his daughter, Lady Mary Savile. In the 1920s she moved to Essex and the house was bought by Albert Braithwaite, a former Mayor of Leeds, who sold the house in 1938.
Wartime followed and the lodge was used as a convalescent hospital, helping Second World War soldiers who were recovering from injuries on the battlefields of Europe and North Africa.
The home’s last private owner, businessman Oliphant Philipson, sold it to the Yorkshire Electricity Power Company in 1945.
The home of the Earl of Derby appeared in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in June 1910, highlighted for its close proximity to Ascot Racecourse.
Coworth Park appears to have been built in 1776 for William Shepheard, an East India merchant. His son sold it before 1836 to Colonel George Arbuthnot, a Scottish Colonel who served in Madras. It passed to his nephew John Alves Arbuthnot , a director of the London Assurance Company and of the London and Colonial Bank, and later a founder of Arbuthnot Latham & Co.
In 1883, his son, William Arbuthnot sold Coworth Park to William Farmer (afterwards Sir William Farmer), chairman of Farmer & Co Ltd, Australia merchants and later Sheriff of London in 1890-91. About 1899 he sold the estate to Edward George Villers Stanley (1865-1948), Lord Stanley, who in 1908 succeeded his father as 17th Earl of Derby. His widow died in 1957 and the house became a Roman Catholic convent school and was later converted into offices by Harold Bamberg, a director of the travel agency Henry Simpson Lunn (later to become Lunn Poly) and also chairman of British Eagle Airways.
In the mid-1980s, Coworth Park was acquired by Galen Weston, owner of Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, who developed the property’s first polo field. These days Coworth Park is owned by the Dorchester Collection, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, and is a luxury hotel and resort, altered significantly inside and enlarged between 2005 and 2011.
If stones could speak, Highhead Castle, at Ivegill, Cumbria, would have a tale to tell, one in which romance and pathos, were blended in a chronicle of a man’s bitter disappointment.
Today, the remains of the real castle, built more than six centuries ago are almost non-existent. The Castle was here when the Richmond family became owners in Tudor times and added a West Wing to the old fortified mansion.
A century later a fortunate marriage brought Catterlen Hall to the Richmonds and here, too, they left a memorial of themselves in the fine 17th century wing of that fascinating house.
By 1716 both properties were ruled over by the widow of Christopher Richmond. Ruled was the right word for Isabella Miller – she took a second husband – was a matriarch who ruled with a rod of iron and gave no quarter.
Of her family of eleven, only the daughters married. The one son who grew to manhood died at the age of 26 in 1716, and his mother – who mourned him deeply – was faced with the problem of the disposal of the two estates after her death. She had many descendants from whom to choose, and eventually the lot fell upon her grandson, Henry Richmond Brougham, whom she hoped to make head of a new line at Highhead.
Her will was framed to this end, but its provisions spelt ruin to Highhead Castle in the end.
At the time, Henry Richmond Brougham was 17, and the old lady disposed of Highhead in this way. One half was to be enjoyed by her unmarried daughter, Susanna Richmond, for her life, and the other half Susanna was to have until Henry Richmond Brougham came of age. In the event of his dying unmarried his half was to revert to Susanna.
Isabella Miller died in 1739, the year before her grandson came of age. If she had had dreams for him, so had Susanna Richmond, his aunt, who found that the boy’s uncle, John Brougham, of Scales Hall, Skelton, was equally anxious that Henry Richmond Brougham should reign happy and glorious at Highhead. Nothing but a complete rebuilding of the old castle would do.
Down came the two 14th century towers, leaving only the Tudor wing standing. To this was added an 18th century house, at a cost of £10,000 – a very large sum in the days of its construction when masons were paid 10d a day. ¹
It is said that John Brougham had spent some time in Italy and acquired a passion for Italian designs and workmanship. It is certain that he brought over Italian craftsmen to carry out ceilings, cornices, and other plasterwork. In a tantalising reference, William Jackson, writing in 1874, spoke of the “traditional gossip” about the foreign craftsmen, which still lingered in the district. As the work neared completion, Henry Richmond Brougham, by now 30, was chosen as High Sheriff of Cumberland. To support him in this dignity, his uncle made over to him four estates – no doubt with a hint that they were to be handed back when the year of office was over.
Fate stepped in at this point and death claimed Henry Richmond Brougham before the year was ended. The work at Highhead was suspended, and the building operations never resumed.
The four estates passed to the young man’s legal heir, who, to quote Mr Jackson, “did not recognise the property of returning them” to John Brougham.
Highhead and Catterlen now became the property of Susanna Richmond for life. While she lived all was yet well. She lived in state at Highhead and enjoyed the good things in life. In the 1870’s there still remained at Greystoke Castle some of the ale brewed at Highhead and given by Susanna to the then Duke of Norfolk. It was said to have been a drink fit for kings.
Miss Susanna lived on until 1774, when she died at the age of 87. She had the power of disposing of Catterlen and left it to her niece. Mrs Curwen, of Workington Hall.
Highhead, on the contrary, now passed under complicated terms of her mother’s will and the trouble began. The old lady had never envisaged the untimely end of her grandson. He was to have shared one half of the house with his aunt, on whose death he would be entitled to the other half.
Now, however, the ownership of the Castle was divided into two halves and each half into fourths. In the end, none of the owners occupied the Castle, and from 1774 it was deserted except that estate tenants could use some of the rooms as store rooms and granaries.
Writing in 1794, William Hutchinson said “the swallows and jackdaws have now been its only tenants for many years, and it is doubtful the whole fabric will be suffered to go to wreck.”
The divided ownership was the curse of the Castle. Legal squabbles were kept up until the owners of one half at length decided to pull down that portion and sell the materials. The work of destruction had indeed begun but was stayed by the sale of that half about 1820 to Henry Brougham, later to be Lord Chancellor, who eventually bought the other half and so became owner of the whole.
Whellan, writing in 1860, said: “There was formerly a good deal of carved woodwork about the building, but this has been removed to Brougham Hall.” About this time the house was repaired and was let as a farmhouse. ²
The second Lord Brougham carried out more repairs between 1868 and 1874. His son and successor sold Highhead Castle – still used as a farmhouse – in November 1902, to Judge Herbert Augustus Hills for £18,000. From the judge it passed to the Right Hon John Waller Hills, became tenanted, and he sold it to Colonel Alan Dower, MP, on whose instructions it was offered for sale in June 1950.
In August 1950, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning announced that Highhead Castle had been scheduled as a building of special architectural and historic interest.
On Tuesday, December 12, 1956, Highhead Castle, now owned by Mr Gordon Robinson, a Penrith butcher, had been away with his wife on business. On their return they found the 30-roomed Georgian mansion on fire, their three small children having been rescued and taken to safety in a neighbouring farmhouse.
The alarm had been raised after farmers saw smoke billowing from a bedroom window. When firemen arrived only the small wing where the family lived was burning. A Cumberland News reporter said: “In no time at all the wind had driven the flames to another room, then there was no stopping the raging inferno as flames and smoke swirled in the rain. It was a terrible sight as scores of villagers and helpers were told to keep back out of danger, while firemen risked their necks to fight the blaze from inside the castle.”
A split-second saved one fireman as he ran down the main staircase to the main hall. A heavy red-hot beam dropped inches behind him, setting the staircase alight. Other firemen and helpers ran from the house.
The roof began to break in with dull, monotonous cracks, and turntables were brought out to fight the fire from above. Flames were swirling all around the firemen as they carried hoses to the top of the turntables. “They stood out like ghosts in the glare, against the charred black background of the castle walls.” Glass splintered in all directions, bursting with intense heat, as firemen continued to pump water 400 yards from the River Ive all through the night.
Jim Templeton was a firefighter on that December night in 1956 and said the conditions were terrible. It was so windy that one of his colleagues was blown off a ladder. The fire was well alight when they arrived and there was little they could do to save the house. Jim had a lucky escape himself, he said that a heavy iron bath fell through the house as the timbers became sodden with water and almost landed on him. ³
Now only the outer walls and cellars remain. The magnificent terraced gardens are also in need of a lot of work, but the facade of the house is pretty much intact.
An application was made in 1985 to demolish the remains which was defeated after a public inquiry. Christopher Terry (1938-2016), who also owned Brougham Hall near Penrith, bought Highhead Castle just as it was about to be demolished. In fact, he said, he was given an hour’s notice and shot up to the house just in time to save it.
In November 2018, Highhead Castle is on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk Register, classified ‘A’, being the highest priority. With support from Historic England and the Country Houses Foundation, emergency stabilisation works have been completed and an options appraisal has been produced to help secure a viable and sustainable long-term use. It is currently on the market at Savills with offers wanted over £250,000.
Notes:- ¹ The Classical House was built for the Brougham family between 1744-49, from the same red Lazonby sandstone as the gorge below it and is thought to have been designed by renowned architect James Gibbs.
² What happened to the woodwork which Lord Chancellor Brougham took from Highhead to Brougham Hall? Presumably it was among the 5000 square feet of linen fold and Jacobean oak panelling which was sold at Brougham Hall on July 18, 1934, before the house was abandoned. On that day, 730 square feet of oak linen fold panelling in the dining room were sold to a London buyer for £130, and a screen of Italian workmanship from the Armoury was sold for £30 to Mr Eugene Andrews. This screen was relocated to St John’s Church in Girvan. It may have come from Highhead Castle or have been bought from the Continent by Lord Chancellor Brougham, who bought many treasures during his frequent trips abroad.
³ BBC Radio Cumbria. May 20, 2006.
⁴ The Classical House, northern garden wall and Tudor West Wing are all separately listed Grade II* and the servants wing and piers to the end of the drive are both listed Grade II.
Tatchbury Mount was built in the early 19th century, possibly for William Timson, or more likely for Henry Thomas Timson, a ‘gentleman of fortune’, who died in 1848. It passed to the Reverend Edward Timson, Master of the New Forest Foxhounds, until his death in 1873, and subsequently to his son, Captain Henry Timson, of the 5th Lancashire Regiment.
Tatchbury was later rented to Mr J.P. Hesletine and then Sir Daniel Fulthorpe Gooch, also of Clewer Park in Berkshire, the third holder of the baronetcy conferred in 1866 on Sir Daniel Gooch, for many years chairman of the Great Western Railway. The third baronet had accompanied Sir Ernest Shackleton in his 1914 Antarctic Expedition as far as South Georgia, signing on as an able seaman on the Endurance.
In 1927, Tatchbury Mount, still owned by the Timson family, was put up for sale and eventually sold to Hampshire County Council as a Colony for Mental Defectives. It opened in 1931 and after a long-use as a secure hospital, the site around it developed and still in use, the original mansion was surprisingly demolished in 2006.
When fire broke out a lack of water caused by summer drought resulted in this country house’s destruction
Between the autumns of 1933 and 1934, the southern counties of England suffered extreme drought. The summer wasn’t particularly hot, but lack of rainfall depleted surface water in rivers, streams, ponds and lakes, leaving many of them dry beds. The effect of this had devastating consequences for one Norfolk country house when it caught fire in the early hours of Saturday 23 June 1934.
Fring Hall, built in 1807, was one of the show mansions of West Norfolk, and home to the Hon. Somerset Arthur Maxwell (1905-1942), the eldest son of Arthur Kenlis Maxwell, 11th Baron Farnham. He’d married (Angela) Susan Roberts, daughter of Captain Marshall Owen Roberts, by his former wife Irene Helene Murray, in 1930.
The House, which stood in many acres of grounds, with a beautiful garden and park, had been leased from the Dusgate family, and redecoration had recently been completed in readiness for the incoming tenants. It was described as ‘a neat cemented mansion, upon a commanding eminence, with extensive gardens and pleasure grounds’
Mr Maxwell and his wife had arrived from London about an hour before the fire broke out. He at once communicated with the police when the outbreak was discovered by a servant, and the Sandringham Brigade from the King’s estate was the first to arrive.
So intense were the flames, that by 4 am only the walls were left standing, and some of these had become cracked and in danger of collapse. The roof and two wings had gone and the fine old mansion of about 60 rooms was little more than a blackened ruin.
Only a few hundred gallons of water were available to fight the flames. Owing to the drought there was no water in the ponds or in the ditches, and 60 men from five fire brigades and 20 Royal Air Force men could only stand by after the initial supply was exhausted. The main sources of water turned out to be a well in the grounds and some storage tanks, meaning only a few hoses could be used.
Flames rose to a great height and could be seen for miles, the roads full of motorists who had come to watch. One local resident was able to report on the blaze:
“Mr Maxwell, I believe, only took over the mansion about four months ago, but only returned to it yesterday to attend a Conservative meeting promoted by Viscountess Downe, at Hillington.
“In the glare of the fire he worked in his shirt sleeves, doing all he could to help the firemen. Valuable furniture and jewels were saved before the flames reached the front of the house, I understand.”
Despite the lack of water, men were able to get into the buildings and rescue most of the downstairs furniture and some from the bedrooms. All the jewellery and silver recovered were placed in a cell at Docking Police Station for safekeeping.
Fring Hall was rebuilt in 1936 and said to be a copy of the original, although there are differences in its external appearance. The cropmark of the original building is said to appear in dry weather protruding from the side of the present house.
Lt-Colonel, the Hon. Somerset Maxwell, one of the country’s tallest MPs, died in 1942, of wounds he received in Agedabia (now Ajdabiya) in Libya.
These days Fring Hall is home to the Brun family. Henrik Constantin Brun (1908-2009) came over from Denmark before World War Two and worked for a large farming company before branching out on his own as a tenant on the Sandringham estate. His youngest son, Edward Henrik Constantin Brun (b. 1948), is now the occupier at Fring Hall with its woodland used to supply coppice and woodland products.