The former headquarters of Warwickshire Police at Leek Wootton is to be marketed for sale, ending seventy years of police occupation.
In August, 1947, the Leamington Spa Courier announced that the executors of the late Sir Wathen Waller had instructed a Birmingham firm of auctioneers to offer for sale the remainder of the Woodcote estate situated at Leek Wootton, between Kenilworth and Warwick. The estate comprised a stone-fronted mansion, surrounded by charming grounds, the Home Farm, woodlands, and a number of cottages extending in all to about 253 acres.
Grade II listed Woodcote House was built in Elizabethan-style in 1861 and extended in 1869 on the site of an earlier house. Designed by John Gibson, it was built in Jacobean style for Henry Christopher Wise. The Wise family once owned Warwick Priory, which was dismantled and removed to America. A member of the Wise family was head gardener to Charles I, a position of some importance.
In 1864, All Saints’ Church, Leek Wootton, was thoroughly repaired and an open roof, the gift of the late Henry Christopher Wise, was erected; there was also a memorial to his three sons. In 1897, carved choir stalls were installed by Lady Waller as a memorial to her husband, the late General Sir George Waller, 3rd Baronet, and a chancel screen was erected in 1930 in memory of Captain Sir Francis Waller, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, killed in action in 1914.
The Wallers came of fighting stock. One of their ancestors captured the Duke of Orleans, at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, when Henry V conferred honours upon him.
In 1947, the executors of Sir Wathen Waller sold Woodcote House to Warwick Rural District Council for £25,654 to be used as a police headquarters. Following a conversion costing £60,000 Woodcote became the headquarters of the Warwickshire Constabulary in 1949. The house is linked to the east to significant 1960s/70s buildings developed as part of the Warwickshire Police headquarters.
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.
From The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in June 1910. This was Forest Farm in Windsor Forest, Winkfield, in Berkshire, belonging to Henry Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle (1864-1928). He had abandoned Clumber House in Nottinghamshire for the comforts of Forest Farm in 1908, although it appears to have been under his ownership from 1906.
Soon after moving in it suffered a fire that damaged the upper parts of the building. Presumably it had been restored at the time of this photograph. Following his death in 1928, the Dowager Duchess of Newcastle remained at Forest Farm until her own death in 1955, and the house appears to have been demolished in 1956. Consigned to history and virtually forgotten.
New Lodge, in Windsor Forest, appeared in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in June 1910. It was the home of Colonel Victor Van de Weyer and was to be the scene of house parties for Ascot race meeting.
The house was built by Thomas Talbot-Bury (1809-1877) between 1856-1859 for Jean-Sylvain Van der Weyer (1802-1874), the Belgian Ambassador to Britain, friend of Queen Victoria and Albert and a notable book collector. His American father-in-law Joshua Bates, a partner in Barings’ Bank is said to have paid for the house, which was Tudor-Gothic, in the style of Pugin-Barry.
Queen Victoria and her children were regular visitors to New Lodge and planted the Wellingtonia trees that line the driveway.
Van der Weyer made his fortune from investments in the United States and Canada. The family held interests in Chicago, Detroit and Canada Grand Junction bonds, the Grand Russian Railway Company and Atlantic and St Lawrence railroad bonds, among others.
His wealth was used to buy land and farms surrounding New Lodge, as did his eldest son, Victor, who inherited the estate in 1874. After he died in 1915, Captain William Van der Weyer, a grandson of the Belgian Ambassador, sold the estate in 70 separate lots the following year.
New Lodge was bought by Dr Venables (or Venebles) who leased it in 1925 to New Lodge Clinic Ltd, an exclusive establishment that operated until 1939, when the house was sublet to Sir Malcolm Deleringe and others for the accommodation of refugees. In 1942, the house was bought by Dr Barnardos, the children’s charity, for £24,000.
In 1956, New Lodge was acquired by the British Railways Transport Commission for £24,000 and turned into a training school, known as ‘The British Railways School of Transport’. At the time, the purchase of the house was believed to be more economical than the cost of a new building. However, the cost of conversion was said to have eventually cost over £100,000. It was later shared with B.T. Hotels, who used it to train staff until 1964.
Faced with high running costs, the Commission closed the facility in 1971 and sold it a year afterwards to environmental information specialist Barbour Index, who used it as offices. Afterwards the Grade II* listed house was extensively refurbished and, after being sold in 2004 to the Marchday Group for office use, it was put up for sale again in 2013.
In 2016, a planning application was submitted by two brothers to convert New Lodge from serviced office use back to residential. Lewandowski Architects, based in Eton were appointed to work on the project and restore the listed building as far as possible to its original features.
In June 1938. Ashley Courtenay, the resident hotel inspector for The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, visited ‘a new sporting hotel’, Knappe Cross in Exmouth, Devon, managed by Mr William Dedman and his wife Winifred.
“Driving up a narrow lane on the Honiton side of Exmouth you will come upon an imposing pair of park gates. It is a magnificent building designed in the best Tudor style by a famous architect, and its outside appearance, as it stands in its beautiful tree-girt grounds looking across the valley to the sea, a mile away, is truly impressive. Inside you will find rooms which are as magnificent in proportion as the outside of the building suggests.
“The furnishings are modern and very fine, but chosen to accord, perfectly with the natural dignity of the house. Every modern luxury of equipment, such as central heating and softened water, is here for your convenience, but the pleasant features of the more romantic periods of domestic architecture have been allowed to take their place.”
It was a new dawn for Knappe Cross, a country house that was completed in 1908 for Dr Ethelbert Petrie Hoyle (1861-1955) by architect William Ansell and built by Crediton builders, Dart and Francis. Hoyle was an American homeopathic doctor who was said to have enjoyed a generous income from investments in South African tin mines. It was a large house of red brick with stone dressings and clay tiled roof in Elizabethan style; an interesting design that attracted the interest of Architectural Review magazine.
In the end, Hoyle’s stay at Knappe Cross was short-lived. Shortly after moving in, tragedy struck when his son Michael died at birth, possibly casting a shadow over the mansion.
In 1910, Hoyle sold Knappe Cross to Augustus Arthur Perceval, 8th Earl of Egmont (1856-1910), whose family had been owners of Cowdray Park in Sussex which he had sold two years earlier. He was an interesting character. Born in Lancashire he had lived in New Zealand for a while, later becoming a naval cadet, a fireman and a caretaker at Chelsea Town Hall. Unfortunately, he died before taking possession of Knappe Cross, and it was his widow, Kate, daughter of Warwick Howell of South Carolina, who lived in the house.
By the 1920s the house was in the possession of Mr E. J. Spencer, passing in 1928 to George Ernest Wright of Pudleston Court, Hereford. He had been High Sheriff of Hereford in 1914 and was a director of the Lilleshall Company and John Wright and Co of Edgbaston in Birmingham. Wright died in 1933 and his wife, Matilda, stayed at Knappe Cross until her own death two years later.
Knappe Cross Devon Ltd was formed in 1938 as the holding company for the new hotel. However, the outbreak of war in 1939 meant it was an unfortunate and ill-fated move. There was little enthusiasm for a ‘sporting’ hotel and Mr and Mrs Dedman needed alternative revenue to keep the business solvent. Salvation came in 1941 when the Royal United Service Orphan Home for Girls (‘children of our brave sailors, soldiers and airmen’) moved from Devonport to the peace and quiet of Knappe Cross.
After the war the orphanage moved to the Army and Navy Villas at Newquay, in Cornwall, and Knappe Cross became a hotel again in 1946, this time under the management of Edgar Philip Jenkins. It became a convalescent home for the Post Office in 1952 and became a hotel again in 1981, before being converted into a nursing home, with a new wing added to the house in 1992.
An American shrine on English soil. Following in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin, the great negotiator, and the sad plight of an English country house.
In March 1918, The Graphic highlighted Hayes Place in Kent, the ornate home of the Earl of Chatham, and the historical visit of the great American, Benjamin Franklin.
From 1757 to 1774, Franklin lived mainly in London where he was the colonial representative for Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. His attempts to reconcile the British government with the colonies proved fruitless. On his return to America, the war of independence had already broken out and he threw himself into the struggle. In 1776, he helped to draft, and was then a signatory to, the Declaration of Independence.
In 1758, when relations between the mother land and her American colonies had become strained to breaking point, William Pitt the elder, later the 1st Earl of Chatham, went out of his way to make the acquaintance of the famous American. They met within the walls of Hayes Place, where Franklin and the Earl held many discussions as to how the differences between Great Britain and America might be healed.
Site of a house since the 15th century, in 1754 William Pitt the elder bought the property, subsequently rebuilding it. The birthplace of his son, Pitt the Younger in 1759 and the scene of his own death in 1778, it was visited by many of the major figures of the late 18th century but passed out of the family in 1785.
In 1880 Everard Hambro of the banking family, became the owner. Following his death in 1925 his son Eric decided to dispose of the estate for building, although the need for an improved infrastructure for this rural area meant delays.
As a result the house survived until 1933.
Developed as the Hayes Place Estate by Henry Boot, a Sheffield based company, roads such as Chatham Avenue and Hambro Avenue were named after figures associated with the house’s history.
“Where statesmen once met to discuss state matters, builders’ men now eat their lunches. Hayes Place, the historic mansion of the Pitts, is now used as a store for building materials.” – Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser – March 1933.
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.