A house that has changed significantly as the result of two fires within five years and the need to downsize.
Hainton Hall stands on the Lincolnshire Wolds between Lincoln and Louth, and about seven miles south-west of Market Rasen. The mansion we see today looks very different to the one that stood here one hundred years ago. It was a large and handsome mansion standing in a well-wooded park of 145 acres, and the seat of the Heneage family since the reign of Henry III.
The hall was built in 1638 with later additions, and a rebuilding and raising of the west wing, and the facing of the whole house in stucco, by Peter Atkinson in 1809. A porch was added by William Burn in 1875.
However, a series of events in the first part of the twentieth century means that its modern appearance looks remarkably different.
In June 1919, a fire broke out at Hainton Hall, where Edward Heneage, 1st Baron Heneage (1840-1922) had just recovered from an illness that had lasted two months. He and Lady Eleanor Heneage, as well as a full complement of domestic staff, were in residence when the blaze was discovered.
The fire occurred on the afternoon of Sunday 8 June and the estate fire brigade had started tackling the flames before summoning fire brigades from Lincoln, Wragby and Grimsby. As was often the case the firemen were faced with the difficult task of securing ample water supplies, the only immediate source being from a small fishpond on the estate.
The firemen made strenuous efforts to overtake the already serious advance made by the fire, but the flames had made such headway that one wing of the mansion was very soon destroyed.
All available help was used to rescue furniture and valuables from inside, and these were carried out onto the lawn.
The fire was eventually brought under control around midnight. The firemen had successfully saved the south and west fronts, but the east wing, consisting of the servants’ quarters, had been lost.
It was later thought that a carelessly thrown peace celebration firework was responsible for the fire.
Although there were no casualties amongst its residents, a Grimsby fireman, Albert Barrcroft, was killed when he was pinned beneath half a ton of falling debris, and one of his colleagues, William Watkins, injured by the fire.
In the aftermath, Lord Heneage contributed £500 towards the support of the dead fireman’s widow and children, the Grimsby Fire Brigade Committee stating that £1,100 was available to the dependants. As a sequel to the fire, it later decided to insure its firemen against fatal accidents .
Lord Heneage died in 1922, and by remarkable misfortune the mansion was to catch fire again in July 1924.
The outbreak was discovered in a suite of bedrooms by a maid-servant, probably caused by fused electrical wiring, and the estate fire appliances (that had been brought up to date since the fire of 1919) set to work. Unfortunately, they were inadequate to cope with the flames, and by the time the Lincoln Fire Brigade arrived an hour later the building was once again a mass of flames.
On this occasion, the new Lord Heneage, George Edward Heneage (1866-1954), was away at the Lincolnshire Show, a guest of Lord Yarborough, and returned immediately.
People from all over the district, attracted by clouds of dense smoke, arrived to render assistance in once again rescuing priceless art treasures and antique furniture and piling them high on the lawn. Lord Heneage, accompanied by his cousin, Lieut-Col A.P. Heneage, superintended the collection of articles.
The damage was reported to run at ‘something like’ £25,000, the whole of the principal rooms completely gutted, and the ceiling of the drawing-room destroyed by water. An attempt to remove valuable books from the library had been abandoned because the roof had started to fall in, and molten lead was dripping from above. Ironically, the books were later found to be undamaged. Even though the library itself was saturated, the heavily recessed bookcases had saved most of the collection.
The dining-room had escaped damage but not so the Adam ceiling in the drawing-room where cracks had appeared in the delicate white and gold traceries.
The priceless collection of family portraits, going back to the sixteenth century, had suffered not so much from the fire itself, but as from moisture and the hasty way in which the pictures were carried to the lawn. Many were mottled by damp and others scratched or marked. A picture of Lord Heneage’s grandfather, presented by the tenantry in 1855, had a hole right through the canvas.
In a bizarre set of circumstances, sightseers flooded from all over the county to gain a glimpse of the hall, and for two days Lord Heneage threw the grounds open.
When the second Lord Heneage died in 1954 the estate passed to the nine-year-old James Neil Heneage from another branch of the family. During his minority the trustees demolished the east wing in 1956 and removed the top storey of the central block (even though it had been listed in 1952).
In 1957 parts of the estate in Legsby, Barkwith, Torrington and Willingham were sold off largely to pay death duties.
When James Heneage came of age and inherited the estate, he commissioned the architect W. H. Hemmings to rebalance the external appearance of the Hall, the work being completed in 1975.