Tag Archives: NORFOLK

WOLTERTON HALL

“Wolterton is classical and austere, standing aloof across a wide park.” Writer Simon Jenkins visited the house in 2003 when it was empty. Its future now looks much brighter with new owners.  

Wolterton Park - Historic Houses (1)
Wolterton Hall is a 150 acre park on a 500 acre private estate in the Bure Valley between Holt and Aylsham, close to the North Norfolk coast. Image: Historic Houses.

It was a significant moment in April 2016, when Peter Sheppard and Keith Day, from London, bought Wolterton Hall at Wickmere in Norfolk. The sale might not have attracted much publicity, but it ended a link with the famous Walpole family going back 295 years.

The Walpoles had abandoned Wolterton, moving to Mannington Hall. No one lived in the mansion, it was closed-up and shuttered. By the turn of this century it was being used as estate offices. “Vacuum cleaners, word processors, fax machines and inevitable modern alarm systems, rather than elegant furnishings of earlier periods, are nonetheless a real continuation of the changing life of this house,” said Lord Walpole at the time.¹

Wolterton Park - 2014 - Antony Kelly (1)
Wolterton Hall in 2014. Image: Antony Kelly.

Its sale probably had something to do with the death of Robert Henry Montgomerie Walpole (born 1913), 9th Baron Walpole of Walpole, 7th Baron Walpole of Wolterton, who died in 1989. Taxes due on his death weren’t settled until 2014, his son, Robert Horatio Walpole, 10th Baron Walpole, choosing to remain at Mannington and putting Wolterton Hall on the market.

Wolterton Park - 2014 - Antony Kelly (2)
Wolterton Hall in 2014. Image: Antony Kelly.

Wolterton Hall was built in 1721 by Horatio Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole, politician, diplomat and younger brother of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister. The architect was Thomas Ripley, Superintendent at Robert Walpole’s Houghton Hall, and believed to be his only surviving major work. Its construction wasn’t completed until 1742.

Wolterton Park - 2014 - Antony Kelly (3)
Wolterton Hall in 2014. Image: Antony Kelly.

The house suffered in the nineteenth century when Horatio William Walpole (1813-1894), 4th Earl of Orford moved out, and might well have fallen victim to demolition had it not been for his son, Robert Horace Walpole (1854 – 1931) and his American wife, who returned and restored it in 1905.

Wolterton Park - The Bystander - Oct 7 1931 - BNA
October 1931. Robert Henry Montgomerie Walpole, who had succeeded to the Walpole baronies on the death in New Zealand of his distant cousin, the fifth and last Earl of Orford, was pictured with his only sister, Pamela. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
Wolterton Park - The Sketch - Oct 12 1938 - BNA (1)
Wolterton Hall. Pictured in October 1938. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
Wolterton Park - The Sketch - Oct 12 1938 - BNA (2)
October 1938. Lord and Lady Walpole in their library at Wolterton Hall. Note the mantelpiece motto. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Like many country houses, Wolterton Hall suffered at the hands of the military during World War Two, not helped by a devastating fire in December 1952.

The blaze had broken out on the top floor while Lord and Lady Walpole and small daughter, Phillida, were at lunch. It quickly spread to the roof and was still burning four hours later. “My Butler, Mr Crookshank, found parts of the top floor in flames. I think we have saved all of value, but the hall itself appears to be ruined,” said Lord Walpole, who had succeeded to the title in 1931 .

Wolterton Park - Dec 1952 - EDP (1)
Wolterton Hall was damaged in a fire in December 1952. Image: EDP Library.

Sixteen appliances from eight fire brigades had fought the blaze which had been confined to the attic and second floor but hadn’t prevented parts of the roof falling in. There was also damage to the State Rooms below caused by water from the firemen’s hoses.²

Wolterton Park - Unknown (1)
An old black and white photograph of the inside of Wolterton Hall. Image: Archant.

The property was restored, but the Walpoles had long since relocated to Mannington Hall.

Events were held at the hall including concerts, antique and textile fairs, and outdoor events in the park. Wolterton also became a popular wedding venue but attempts to place it in the hands of museums, English Heritage and the National Trust proved unsuccessful.³

Wolterton Park - Archant (1)
The present Lord Walpole’s father, the late Lord Walpole, who died in 1989, and his wife, Lady Walpole in the saloon. Image: Archant.
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The present Lord and Lady Walpole at Wolterton in 2009. Image: Archant.

The purchase of Wolterton Hall by Sheppard Day in 2016 (with a speculated cost of £10 million) placed the house under experts with a property pedigree. The duo had previously restored Hales Hall in South Norfolk, as well as the Friary in Westminster and Fitzroy Square. One of their first tasks was to get four holiday lets up and running to help with the daily costs.

Wolterton Park - Ella Wilkinson - Archant (1)
Owners of Wolterton Hall, Keith Day (left) and Peter Sheppard (right), in one of the sitting rooms. Image: Ella Wilkinson – Archant.

“The biggest challenge with refurbishing Wolterton is money, you end up putting a ‘0’ on the end of everything,” said Peter Day in 2019, as refurbishment continues. “The hard thing is trying to generate an income stream; this is necessary in order for buildings like this to survive.”

The pair intend to live at Wolterton Hall themselves, but they have long-term plans to let the house as a whole or for special occasions. The wishes of the 10th Baron Walpole to open the estate to the public might now become a reality.

Wolterton Park - Ella Wilkinson - Archant (2)
The library at Wolterton Hall. Picture: Ella Wilkinson – Archant.

References: –
¹ Simon Jenkins ‘England’s Thousand Best Houses’ (2003).
² Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (6 Dec 1952), Birmingham Daily Gazette (6 Dec 1952).
³ Eastern Daily Press (19 Apr 2016)
⁴ Eastern Daily Press (2 May 2019).

BEAUPRE HALL

Nothing remains of Beaupré Hall, an unloved manor house, that was eventually abandoned. In the 1960s, developers replaced it with a housing estate.

Beaupre Hall 1963
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. WILLIAM SMITH COLLECTION.

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.1024px-Beaupre_Hall_Outwell_Norfolk

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.

Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Lost Heritage (1)
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. LOST HERITAGE.
Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Lost Heritage (2)
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. LOST HERITAGE.

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.

Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Lost Heritage (3)
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. LOST HERITAGE.

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.

Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Lost Heritage (4)
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. LOST HERITAGE.

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 .

Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Country Life Archives (1)
Going. COUNTRY LIFE.
Beaupre Hall - 1966 - Smith, Edwin (1912-1971)
Going. EDWIN SMITH COLLECTION.
Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Google Maps (1)
Gone. GOOGLE MAPS.

FRING HALL

When fire broke out a lack of water caused by summer drought resulted in this country house’s destruction

Fring Hall - Lost heritage
Image: Lost Heritage.

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’

Somerset Maxwell and Susan Roberts - The Sketch - Jun 4 1930 - BNA
Somerset Maxwell and his future wife, Susan Roberts. This picture was taken shortly before their marriage in 1930. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

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 - Yumidk
Image: Lost Heritage.

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.

Somerset Maxwell - The Bystander - Jun 7 1938 - BNA
Five Maxwells and a pony: Somerset Maxwell, MP for King’s Lynn since 1935, his wife, his sons and a small attractive daughter were photographed at Fring Hall in 1938. The house had been rebuilt after the fire. He would die four years later fighting in World War Two. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

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.