Tag Archives: Hotel

WHITLEY PARK HALL

Where once a mansion stood in open countryside. The railway and the growth of Whitley Bay as a seaside resort eventually sealed its fate.

Whitley Park Hotel
Lost and forgotten. Whitley Park Hall was a country house, later a hotel and council offices.

Deep beneath the recreational space called Whitley Park, one can hope that the foundations of long-lost Whitley Park Hall might remain. It is hard to imagine that this part of Whitley Bay once looked remarkably different than it does today.

So quiet and peaceful was the scene in the 1860s, that a Newcastle minister, who used to rent the village blacksmith’s cottage in the parish of Cullercoats each summer, was able to practice his sermons on the beach with no-one to disturb him. Whitley-by-the-Sea, or the ‘Dream Village’ as it was frequently called was a long way off becoming Whitley Bay, the popular seaside resort.

Picturesque the village may have been, but apart from its houses of quality which included Whitley Hall, Whitley Park Hall, Whitley House, Marden House and Belvedere House, it boasted only a few farms and terraced cottages with a liberal supply of public houses.

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Pictures of Whitley Park Hall are extremely rare. This one shows it in its days as a hotel.

Times changed. The introduction of a passenger train between Monkseaton station and Newcastle put the wheels of progress in motion. The picnicking parties, who had previously travelled from Newcastle by wagonette, began to arrive more frequently and in greater numbers to the little station, where colourful rambling roses grew.

The early history of Whitley had been associated with the Hudson family. Henry Hudson, of Newburn, was one of Cromwell’s Ironsides, the lessee of mills at Billy Mill and Tynemouth and of quarries at Whitley and Monkseaton. He was succeeded by his son, Henry Hudson, the second. Henry Hudson, the third, who married his cousin, Elizabeth Ellison, in 1776, sold 11 acres of land to Edward Hall of Backworth, for the purpose of erecting a brewery here.

Whitley Park Hall, built in white stucco, was constructed by Edward Hall about 1789. He was also a cattle breeder and subsequently added to his estate by the purchase of land from his neighbours. He was famous for being the breeder of ‘The Fat Ox,’ immortalised in one of Thomas Bewick’s copper-plate engravings. The ox chewed the cud in Whitley during the 1780’s, weighing 216 stones, 8 lbs before its slaughter by Newcastle butcher Thomas Horsley in 1789.

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‘The Fat Ox’, ‘The Whitley Large Ox’ or ‘The Whitley Great Ox’ – was the property of one Edward Hall of Whitley Park Hall,and was grazed up to its immense proportions upon fields now occupied by The Fat Ox pub in Whitley Bay. Image: North East History Tour.

On Edward Hall’s death in 1792, it was bought by John Haigh, a ‘hostman’ who became bankrupt in 1797 and moved to America. His assignees sold it in 1800 to Thomas Wright of North Shields, who occupied it until his death in 1840.  In 1844, it was bought by John Hodgson-Hinde, and sold in 1855 to Charles Mark Palmer, a shipbuilder then at the height of his fortune, and in 1869 to Thomas William Bulman, who later extended it, diverted the road around his property, and planted a tree belt that still exists today.


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From The Newcastle Journal. 6 May, 1893. Advertised by Thomas William Bulman’s widow. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Thomas William Bulman died in 1879, and his widow sold Whitley Park Hall in 1893 to Theodore Hoyle, Joseph George Joel, Joseph Aynsley Davidson Shipley and Richard John Leeson, who wished to prevent it from disappearing under hundreds of small houses and hoped that a hydropathic establishment could be opened. Plans for the health facility fell through, but a provisional licence for a hotel and restaurant was granted to the Whitley Park Hotel Company in 1893. It opened in the spring of 1896 under the management of Miss Carrie Sokel. In 1910, the company sold parts of the grounds which were turned into the Spanish City Pleasure Grounds (subject of the Dire Straits song Tunnel of Love, along with Whitley Bay and the nearby town Cullercoats), while other parcels of land were sold off for building purposes.

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Many locals will not know the original location of Whitley Park Hall. An old map, with the house at its centre, is over-layered with a modern-day satellite view. Image: National Library of Scotland.

The house was used for billeting during the Great War but was left with only twelve of its sixty apartments in good condition. The hotel was sold to Whitley Pleasure Gardens Company in 1920, with plans to use its grounds to erect elaborate amusements and shows, as well as a scenic railway, extending from Spanish City. The development faltered, but the hotel was sold to Whitley Bay and Monkseaton Urban District Council in 1924, which used the building as offices. In 1939, it spent £30,000 on new offices in Whitley Park, finding the old house “totally unsafe,” and to be “suffering from galloping consumption.”

Whitley Park Hall was demolished in 1939, and a library was built on the site in 1966, since also demolished.

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Whitley Park Hall was demolished in 1939. A library was eventually built on part of its footprint in 1966, but has since also been demolished.
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No trace of evidence. Whitley Park Hall once stood here in open countryside. Image: Google Maps.

SHRUBLAND HALL

One of Suffolk’s finest country houses is facing an uncertain future. It shows no signs of reopening as a hotel, and appears to be falling into disrepair.

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Shrubland Park, near Ipswich, Suffolk. This sketch appeared in The Illustrated London News in July 1851. It showed the arrival of Prince Albert after a meeting of the British Association in Ipswich. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In his book ‘In Search of the Perfect House,’ architectural historian Marcus Binney suggests that “in almost every other European country, Shrubland Hall would be called a palace. A grand Italianate composition with belvedere tower, breathtaking terraced gardens, Swiss cottage and five drives.”

Some of our finest architects were associated with Shrubland Hall (or Shrubland Park), making it hard to accept that the mansion has stood empty for nearly four years. In 2015, an ill-fated attempt to use the country house as a luxury hotel ended in failure. Since then, Shrubland has been left to ruminate its past glories.

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The Shrubland Hall estate was put on the market in 2006 with a price tag of £23 million. It was eventually split into 42 lots. The house sold for £6 million in 2009. Image: Boutique Hotelier.

Shrubland Hall was built in the 1770s by James Paine (1717-89) for the Reverend John Bacon. At the same time, Paine was commissioned to remodel Moor Park in Surrey for John Bacon’s younger brother, Basil, who had inherited the estate in 1770. The third brother, the Reverend Nicholas Bacon, almost certainly used the architect as well, rebuilding the vicarage at Coddenham (now Coddenham House) in 1771.

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Shrubland Hall. Lord de Saumarez decided to sell his family estate in Coddenham, near Ipswich, in 2006 to help pay off death duties. The decision to sell followed the death of Lord de Saumarez’s father in 1991 and his mother Lady de Saumarez in 2004. Image: Steve Parsons-Press Association.

John Bacon died in 1788, Shrubland passing to his brother, Nicholas, who immediately sold the estate to Sir William Fowle Middleton (1748-1829), 1st Baronet, of Crowfield. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, where his family owned Middleton Place, he arrived in Suffolk after inheriting Crowfield Hall near Stowmarket. His brother, Henry, gave him £30,000 to spend on improvements at Shrubland, and he employed Humphry Repton to expand the park from 1789 onwards, and replaced Paine wings in about 1808.

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Abandoned. Shrubland Hall has been empty since it closed as a hotel in 2015. Image: Caters News Agency.

Shrubland Hall was inherited by his only son, Sir William Fowle Middleton (1784-1860), 2nd Baronet, who brought in architect John Peter Gandy Deering in 1831-38, and later Alexander Roos between 1838-45, who enlarged and redecorated the house. About 1850, he turned to Sir Charles Barry who turned the property into an Italian palazzo.

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Shrubland Park was designed by James Paine in the 1770s and passed by marriage through the families of Oake, Bothe, Lytton, Little, Bacon, until it was bought in the late 18th century by William Middleton of Crowfield who was created Sir William Fowle Middleton Bart. Image: TripAdvisor.

After his death, Sir William’s cousin, Sir George Nathaniel Broke Middleton, took over. In 1882, it passed to his niece, Jane Anne Broke, and her husband, James St. Vincent (1843-1937), 4th Baron de Saumarez, in the Island of Guernsey, and leased to tenants, including Lord Magheramorne.

During World War One it was one of the first country mansions to be turned into a Red Cross Convalescent Hospital.

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June 1934. The Hon. Mrs Saumarez with her elder daughter, Miss Veronica Saumarez, and her sons, Philip and James at Shrubland Park. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Abandoned. Shrubland Hall has several portraits of the Royal Family, including the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day. Ironically, it was the childhood haunt of Roddy Llewellyn, who had an eight-year relationship with Princess Margaret. Image: Caters News Agency.

In 1965, James Victor Broke Saumarez (1924-1991), 6th Baron, opened the house as a health clinic, leaving the family furniture and valuable collections in place. It was the brainchild of Lady de Saumarez, a former Royal Ballet dancer who married into the family and supervised its running. With an emphasis on detox and weight loss, the hall remained unchanged for forty years, and attracted high-profile guests, including actress Joan Collins. When the clinic closed in 2006, the contents were sold, and the house eventually put on the market by Eric Douglas Saumarez (born 1956), 7th Baron de Saumarez, to cover an inheritance tax bill.

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Abandoned. Shrubland Hall still contains furniture left over from its days as a hotel. Image: Caters News Agency.
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Abandoned. Overgrown plants are slowly taking over parts of the mansion. Image: Caters News Agency.
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Abandoned. The furnished property is regally decorated with red sofas, golden gilded doors and chandeliers. Image: Caters News Agency.

In 2009, the Shrubland estate was sold in 42 lots, the house being bought for £6 million by Dr Muhammad Farmer, Chief Executive and founder of the British Institute of Technology and E-Commerce, which used it as residential accommodation.

Shrubland Hall was far too grand. Farmer’s decision to convert the mansion into an extravagant hotel in 2014 should have been a rewarding undertaking, taking “prestigious guests … on a journey back to the future,” but the Shrubland Royale Hotel suffered scathing reviews, quickly closing in 2015.

Shrubland Hall - Caters News Agency (7)
In the outside unkempt grounds of the property sits a cannon from Russian war. Image: Caters News Agency.

Mr Farmer claimed that a “celebrity guest” had booked the entire hotel until the following year. However, by September 2016, signs outside the hall had been removed, the gates were closed and booking attempts were declined.  It went on the market for £6.5 million, but remains unsold despite recent claims from Mr Hubbard that the Hilton hotel franchise were interested in taking over the property. A claim later denied by the hotel operator.

The East Anglian Daily Times visited the Shrubland Park Walk – a public right of way that passes through the grounds – in 2017. “The hall appeared an unlikely retreat for any film or music star. The only sign of activity was an older man chopping wood with a chainsaw. Many of the outbuildings appeared in disrepair and the vast grounds left overgrown.”

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A statute outside of the palatial mansion is seen in poor condition after the property fell into disrepair. Image: Caters News Agency.
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Abandoned. Shrubland Hall awaits its fate. The mansion contains 31-bedrooms. Image: Caters News Agency.

Meanwhile, Shrubland Hall deteriorates and following complaints from the parish council, Historic England has visited the house to assess the condition of the gardens and the Grade I listed mansion. The park has been on its Heritage at Risk Register for several years.

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Shrubland Hall features an elegant room with a 007 plaque on the door. Shrubland Hall was used in the 1983 James Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again.’ Image: Caters News Agency.

GRANBY HOUSE

This country house is no stranger to fire. It was still unfinished in 1913 when suffragettes set it ablaze. Elms Cross House became the Granby Hotel and was later destroyed by fire for a second time.

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Granby House, Wiltshire. For many this is still known as Elms Cross House. Image: Knight Frank.

Situated in idyllic countryside, this substantial family home sits at Westwood, moments from the market town of Bradford-on-Avon, in Wiltshire, within lovely gardens and grounds.

Granby House was originally commissioned by quarry master, builder, and stone merchant, Isaac Jones, built at the turn of the 20th Century and is not listed. It is currently on the market at Knight Frank with a guide price of £2.95 million.

The property was once Elms Cross House, which had been built in 1908, by Isaac Jones at a cost of over £18,000. It was still unfinished when, in June 1913, it was completely gutted by fire. Suspicion at the time rested with the Suffragettes and firemen were unable to save the house due to an absolute lack of water. At the time they depended entirely for their supply on a three-quarter-inch tap in outbuildings.

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This photograph appeared in the Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser in November 1922. It was taken shortly after the interior was destroyed by fire in 1913. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

The bare walls of the house became a landmark of the countryside but, in November 1922, Mr Charles William Darbishire, whose firm had business interests in the Far East, and was the newly-elected MP for Westbury, bought the abandoned property. The plans for the house were drawn up by Walter Wadman Snailum of Trowbridge.

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Charles William Darbishire (1875 – 1925 . By Walter Stoneman, bromide print, 1922.

Darbishire had the building restored as his permanent residence. A few years later, however, both he and his wife died within a short time of each other. The house continued as a private residence before it became the Harrogate Hotel in 1939. It was named after the Yorkshire town from which the company had relocated after its hotel was requisitioned by the Government. The northern hotel had been called the Granby and after a while the Harrogate Hotel was also renamed as the Granby Hotel.

“As your car comes to rest on the gravelled drive, a butler appears to see to you and your luggage; no matter what the season, the sweet smell of flowers assails you from the forty acres of grounds. The hotel ‘office’ as such is non-existent, but there is a quiet, efficient direction behind the scenes. The chef, whom you may remember from the Granby at Harrogate, is an adept at his job; here at the Bradford-on-Avon version of the Granby, you will find the comfort and calm of country house life, with the additional convenience of a free car to whisk you into Bath if the mood dictates.

” But there is one snag. There are only twelve rooms, as against the two hundred at Harrogate.”

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The Granby Hotel. This photograph was taken in 1939. Ashley Courtenay in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News said; “A fine specimen of Cotswold domestic architecture where, with the exception of the hotel signboard, there is nothing to suggest an hotel.” Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.

However, in August 1947, the building was gutted by fire for a second time. Once again, firemen were baffled by a complete lack of water supply until a relay pump system had been established between the burning hotel and the canal at Bradford-on-Avon, about a mile away. The fire had started in the linen room on an upper floor at the rear of the premises.

In November 1947, Mr William Gerald Holbrow, a timber merchant, purchased the Elms Cross estate, including the remains of the Granby Hotel. The building was restored as a private residence, once again known as Elms Cross House, but was put up for sale in the 1950s. In recent times the house has been used as a luxury bed and breakfast, known as Granby House Hotel, but now closed.

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The Granby Hotel caught fire again on a Saturday night in August 1947. Dinner was being served at the hotel when suddenly the cry of ‘fire’ swept through the building, a member of staff having discovered that the linen room on an upper floor was ablaze. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.

COWORTH PARK

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.

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Coworth Park at Winkfield. From The Illustrated and Sporting Dramatic News in June 1910. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

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.

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Royal visitors were no stranger to Coworth Park, a trend that still exists. This article appeared in The Sketch in June 1901. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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The land that Coworth Park now stands on was granted in 1066 by Edward the Confessor to Westminster Abbey. William the Conqueror regained possession of it from the Abbey in exchange for lands in Essex. Theoretically, the manor of Old Windsor still remains with the Crown. In 1606 it was leased by James I to Richard Powney, whose great grandson, Penyston Powney, was administering it in 1737. After his death in 1757, his son and heir, Penyston Porlock Powney, became the Crown lessee, and was still appearing as such in records when Coworth House was constructed in 1776. The land was conveyed in 1770 by William Hatch and Elizabeth his wife, who were presumably Powney’s agents or sub-tenants, to one William Shepheard.

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.

Coworth Park - HLN Group
This Georgian manor house is the only hotel in the UK to have polo fields, an equestrian centre and stabling. A fitting spot then for Prince Harry and his best man Prince William to have spent the night before the royal wedding. Image: HLN Group.