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COTON HALL

A Georgian mansion with Victorian additions. Not much remains of the house that General Robert E. Lee’s family once knew

Coton Hall 13 (Savills)
Image: Savills.

The selling-point or Coton Hall is inevitably its connection with the de la Lee family, probably of Norman descent, who owned a sizeable chunk of Shropshire for about 500 years. This was their ancestral home, and in 1636, Richard Lee emigrated to Virginia, where he prospered in tobacco. Another descendant, Richard Henry Lee, was one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence, and Robert E. Lee was commander of the Confederate States Army.

The present house was built about 1800 for Harry Lancelot Lee, the last of the family to live at Coton Hall, in the Parish of Alveley. In his book In Search of the Perfect Home, Marcus Binney says “the elegant simplicity of the house is pure Regency, but to Victorian tastes it was a little too plain, and a picturesque Italianate tower and wing was added about 1860.”

With attention drawn to the American link, Coton Hall was on the market for £2.2 million back in January 2017. Eighteen months later, still unsold, the guide price has been quietly dropped to £1.85 million.

Coton Hall 1 (Savills)
Image: Savills.

According to Marcus Binney, the house is hidden until the last moment, and it is the ruined chapel on the grass circle in front that first comes into view. With its fine interiors, the cellars are of interest, being two-storeys deep, and on the lower level is an entrance to a tunnel which leads to the chapel.

There is another side to Coton Hall’s history, one that is often overlooked. The Lee relationship might have ended with Harry Lancelot Lee, but by the time he died in 1821, he had already let the estate to a local curate.

Coton Hall (Share History)
Image: Share History.

Coton Hall was bought by James Foster (1786 -1853), an iron-master and coal-master of Stourbridge. In 1831 he sat in Parliament for the Liberals, became High Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1840, and became the head of the firm of iron-masters, John Bradley and Company. Foster’s wealth was immense and later allowed him to buy Stourton Castle. When he died in 1853, he left his fortune to his nephew, William Orme Foster of nearby Apley Park.

Coton Hall came into the possession of Edward Lloyd Gatacre (1806 -1891), head of one of Shropshire’s most ancient families, having settled at Gatacre Hall in the reign of Henry III. Educated at Rugby and Christ Church, Oxford, he became one of the oldest magistrates in the county and filled the office of High Sheriff in 1856.

Gatacre put the estate up for sale in 1851, and it was bought by the Reverend Edward Ward Wakeman (1801-1855), a man much esteemed for his great kindness to the poor, and his works for charity. He was the son of Sir Henry Wakeman, 1st Baronet, and Sarah Offley, and married Louisa Thompson in 1835. Wakeman also acquired the Hanley Court estate in 1855, under the will of the Rev. T. H. Newport, but died only months afterwards.

Coton Hall - Shrewsbury Chronicle - 25 Jul 1851 (BNA)
Shrewsbury Chronicle, 1851. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

His eldest son and heir, Offley Francis Drake Wakeman (1836-1865) only came of age in 1857, and the affairs at Coton Hall were briefly managed by his uncle, Offley Penbury Wakeman (1799-1858), 2nd Baronet of Periswell Hall, in Worcestershire.

After over-exerting himself in a cricket match in 1865, Offley Wakeman was found lying in a pool of blood, his death caused by the rupture of a blood vessel. His brother, Henry Allan Wakeman-Newport (1841-1923), had inherited the Hanley Court estate, and Coton Hall was awarded to the youngest brother, Edward Maltby Wakeman (1846-1926).

Edward graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with a Master of Arts, became a Chartered Accountant, a J.P., and was awarded Honourable Lieutenant-Colonel in the 3rd Battalion Shropshire Light Infantry. He married Edith Mary Buchanan in 1874, and had two children, Gladys Louisa Wakeman and Edward Offley Wakeman, an only son, who died within his first year.

Coton Hall 15 (Savills)
Image: Savills.

In 1878, the roof of the chapel collapsed, and all the Lee monuments were moved to Alveley Church.

Colonel Wakeman died in 1926, and left instructions that his funeral should be ‘the plainest possible description, and that all unnecessary expense should be avoided’. He was drawn in an open bier to the grave at Alveley Church by those whom he had employed. Edward left his property in trust for his daughter, with the request that the successors to the property assumed the name and arms of Wakeman. Gladys Louisa had married Captain Hugh Davenport Colville, Royal Navy, in 1906, and legally changed their name to Wakeman-Colville in 1927. They stayed at Coton Hall until the 1930s.

JMC4 - Church Explorer
Image: JMC4 – Church Explorer.
Coton Hall 3 (Savills)
Image: Savills.

In the 1940s, Coton Hall was home to Mr and Mrs Howard Thompson.  The house, which had always maintained a modest degree of secrecy, was opened to the public for one-day in 1956, and was described in the Birmingham Daily Post:

“On show in the Hall – the ancestral home of Gen. Robert E. Lee – will be four of the main rooms. These contain many art treasures, including superb paintings of the Lee family, who owned the hall for more than 500 years.

“In front of the Hall stands the remains of a chapel built in 1275, which was at one time the private domestic chapel of the reigning monarch. It was used by King Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor. The latter laid a rent charge on the manor which is still paid. A subterranean passage leads from the Hall to a crypt beneath the chapel

“The Hall, which stands on a hill, 550 feet above sea level, commands a wonderful view of the valley and the large trout lake.    

“The main feature of the four-acre grounds are the trees, which have plaques attached to indicate their variety. Behind the Hall, overlooking a valley, stands a magnificent cedar tree, planted 226 years ago. In the same year, Thomas Lee sent some seeds to Coton from Virginia. These seeds have now flourished into the tall red chestnut trees in Coton Park.”

Marcus Binney says the ruined chapel is no antiquity. “Local historians have claimed that this is the chapel of ancient Saxon kings, but it is a simple Palladian box with a pretty Strawberry Hill Gothic window in the east end. It is attributed to Shrewsbury architect, Thomas Farnolls Pritchard.”

Coton Hall, built in mellowed sawn grey stone, with a slate roof, is being marketed by Savills and offers excellent family accommodation. Particularly notable are the well-proportioned reception rooms, with their high ceilings and decorative architectural detail. The additional Victorian wing, with Italianate turret, blends admirably with the Georgian part of the house.

Coton Hall 4 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
Coton Hall 5 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
Coton Hall 6 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
Coton Hall 7 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
Coton Hall 8 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
Coton Hall 9 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
Coton Hall 10 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
Coton Hall 11 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
Coton Hall 12 (Savills)
Image: Savills.
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HEALEY HALL

Like the British woollen industry, this Georgian mansion fell from grace but is a worthy restoration

Healey Hall 1 (OTM)

It’s taking a long, long time to sell Healey Hall, near Rochdale. The estate agent brief suggests that ‘a property of such distinction rarely comes to the market making this an exciting opportunity for any perspective buyer’. Look further and you will see that Healey Hall has been a difficult property to sell.

The house gets its name from the de Heley family, who are believed to have had land in Heley (the old name for Healey) before the Norman Conquest, and a stone still preserved at Healey Hall bears the date of 1250, though the stone was not cut until later date. The original mansion was rebuilt in 1618 and this in turn was superseded by the existing mansion in 1774.

The Grade II listed house was built by John Chadwick, armour-bearer and treasurer of the district, who used the cellars of the Jacobean hall as the foundation of the present Georgian property. ‘Its massive walls, not usual in a private Mansion, are formed in general of ponderous stones cramped with iron and lead and bound together with grout-work.’

Healey Hall Original (JP Sutcliffe Files)

Healey Hall 1775 (JPSutcliffeFiles)

Colonel John Chadwick was the last of his family to live at Healey Hall and was responsible for an inscription on the large frontal stone that was reinstated in recent years.

Healey Hall was later occupied by the Tweedale family whose woollen manufacturing business was founded in nearby Healey Dell.

It isn’t surprising that the house had long associations with wool. During the Industrial Revolution the area was at the core of the textile industry and when A.T. Radcliffe bought Healey Hall, he was typical of those wealthy Victorian businessmen blessed with a family fortune.

For some years he was in partnership with his nephew, Gerald Radcliffe (1872-1942), the son of his brother, Joshua W. Radcliffe of Werneth Park, Oldham, and carried on a woollen business at Green Mill in Rochdale.  When his uncle left Healey Hall, Gerard Radcliffe bought it and remained until he retired from business. He left the area and settled down on a country estate, Elton Hall, at Ludlow.

Healey Hall was sold to the Heape family and became home to Robert Taylor Heape (1848-1917) and his brother Richard Heape (1850-1927). Robert and Richard were partners in R. and J. Kelsall, later becoming Littlewood and Heape, and on retirement transferring to Kelsall and Kemp (more of which later).

Robert was famous for his lavish benefactions to Rochdale Art Gallery. Between 1901 and 1913 he presented about one hundred pictures and three pieces of statuary to the gallery, and for many years his gifts formed the nucleus of the permanent collection. He remained at Healey Hall until 1908 when his brother Richard took over the estate.

Richard Heape, J.P., had retired from business in 1892 and owned the Harley estate with which the family had been associated since 1726. Like his brother, he was keen on the arts and sat on the Libraries, Art Gallery and Museums Committee of Rochdale Corporation. He died in 1927.

Healey Hall 2 (OTM)

Healey Hall 3 (OTM)

Healey Hall 4 (OTM)

The Roe family were the last of the big woollen families to live at Healey Hall. Reginald Claude Roe, J.P., (1881-1942) moved in after Harold Heape, the last of his line to live there, vacated to a nearby cottage in 1940. Born in Brisbane, Australia, but educated at Balliol College, Oxford, he came to Rochdale in 1905 to join Kelsall and Kemp Ltd, and some four years later was made a director. He was also a director of its associated companies – Kelsall and Kemp (Tasmania) Ltd, Thomas Heape and Sons and J. Radcliffe and Co – all established firms with historical links to Healey Hall. His widow, Morag, remained after his death in 1942.

The decline of the British woollen industry also reflects in the fortunes of the mansion. No longer viable as a family home it became a 12-bedroom nursing home in the 1980s. When that home closed in the 1990s the building was vandalised, and many internal features were lost, damaged or destroyed.

When Jason Stead bought it in 1999 the property had been granted planning permission to become a restaurant, but it was in poor condition and had been lived in by a tramp. “The hall had been boarded up and derelict. Before this it had been fitted out and was a nursing home for many years. In common with many listed buildings of this type. The hall had only received superficial works mainly decorative to bring it in line with the nursing home requirements.”

Healey Hall 5 (OTM)

Over the next four years he renovated every one of its 36 rooms and embarked on a massive restoration project. Happy to use it as a temporary family home there was still the issue of its long-term future. Healey Hall was put up for sale at £2.7 million in 2007 but failed to find a buyer. In 2009 there were plans to turn Healey Hall into a ‘residential alcohol therapeutic facility’. Despite being granted planning permission the option was never taken up. Four years later, there were suggestions it might become a 11-bedroom country hotel.

Nine years later offers are wanted in excess of £1.35 million The house has multiple reception rooms, 11 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and a lower ground floor with potential for leisure use. It stands in 12 acres split between open fields, parking and formal gardens. Maison Haus

THE CASTLE

Typical of 20th century decline. A once great mansion that fell on hard times. The fall and rise of a country house

The Castle 1 (Urban Base)

It’s taking a surprisingly long time to shift The Castle at Castle Eden. Offers are wanted in the region of £2.5 million, a reduction of nearly £500,000 since being advertised in 2017. This Grade II listed mansion was built about 1765 by William Newton for Rowland Burdon III, a merchant banker. It was embellished with gothic detail by architect Sir John Soane about 1780 and there were later additions, including a prefabricated concrete palm-house on the west front, by F.R. Hicks in 1863.

The Burdon family go back a long way. They lived at Stockton-on-Tees from the reign of Edward IV, and one of them, Robert Burdon, was Mayor of Stockton in 1495, and the first Rowland Burdon was Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees nine times. It was in 1758 that his great-grandson Roland Burdon III bought the dilapidated Castle Eden estate from William Throckmorton Bromley and became the family seat for nearly 200 years. According to Historic England the estate was in poor condition and unenclosed, the chapel was in ruins and the house had gone. He set about enclosing the land, in 1764 re-erected the church and a year later built the house we know today. It has three storeys and a seven-bay entrance front. The central three bays are canted and the whole property carries a castellated parapet.

The Castle (Durham County Council)
The exterior of The Castle. This photograph is thought to date between 1900 and 1909. (Durham County Council).

No expense was spared constructing the country house. Burdon bought nearby Horden Hall, simply to cannibalise it for its staircase and its Jacobean fireplace, while its parkland was carefully planned to hide distant views of the flourishing Shotton Colliery. Within this hidden idyll the family remained until the 20th century despite almost losing it through some poor financial investments along the way.

It might have been paradise for the Burdons, but J.B. Priestley wasn’t enamoured when he visited the area in 1933: “I stared at the monster [the Shotton tip], my head tilted back, and thought of all the fine things that had been conjured out of it in its time, the country houses and townhouses, the drawing-rooms and dining rooms, the carriages and pairs, the trips to Paris, the silks and the jewels, the peaches and iced puddings, the cigars and old brandies; I thought I saw them all tumbling and streaming out, hurrying away from Shotton – oh, a long way from Shotton – as fast as they could go.”

The Castle 1 (Northern Echo)

When Colonel Rowland Burdon died in 1944 the family’s fortunes, like the surrounding area, had diminished and were to be found living in more modest houses in Yorkshire and New Zealand. In 1947, arrangements were made for the National Coal Board to move into The Castle, as headquarters No 3 for the area, and remained for twenty years. “It is a charmed spot concealed from the scarred industrial landscape which surrounds it”.

As might have been expected the occupants didn’t care too much for their new surroundings. One commentator described the house as being ‘savagely raped and institutionalised – the staircase was torn out and consigned to a nearby museum while six-inch holes were hammered through the cornicing to fit central heating pipes’.

Northern Daily Mail - Sat apr 20 1946 (BNA)
The Castle, pictured in 1946, a year before being sold to the National Coal Board as offices. (British Newspaper Archive).

When the NCB moved out in 1967, The Castle was left to stand derelict and probably fortunate to survive the demolition men. It was sold in 1979 to a private owner, who carried out some work to halt the decay, but remained unoccupied. By 1983, it was on the market again and proved to be a stubborn property to sell. Described as being ‘a poisoned chalice’ for each local estate agency chosen, in turn, to sell it, it wasn’t until 1999 that the mansion found a buyer.

The Castle (Keys to the Past)
The Castle, empty and decaying, photographed here before restoration in 1997. (Keys to the Past).

Sue Gillman came to visit her father’s grave in the adjoining churchyard: “The first I knew about it was when we approached the churchyard and saw a big sign saying, ‘Castle for sale’.” Having persuaded a security guard to show him round, her husband Tony discovered a scene of despair. “The house was full of dogs’ poo,” he says. “It was a warm summer’s day outside, but inside it was cold. The building was boarded up and had been heavily institutionalised and the gardens were completely overgrown. The unusual, pyramidal cupola above the central atrium turned out on closer inspection to be an aluminium greenhouse hastily erected in a vain attempt to keep out the rain. In fact, water had been pouring through the roof, down three storeys on to the floor of the hall. The asking price was £500,000, around which, hardly surprisingly, some negotiation was permitted.”

Within two years a large part of the house had been restored although the older part still required restoration and remained empty. However, the value of The Castle had already soared to £1.3 million.

The Castle 7 (Urban Base)
The past few years have been kind to The Castle. Refurbishment continues although the size of the property is deemed too big for its owners. Once again it is a showcase on the property market. According to estate agents Urban Base, The Castle comprises; Orangery, Grand Reception Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Sitting Room, Games Room, Breakfast Kitchen, Cloakroom. Nine superior bedrooms comfortably accommodating up to eighteen at any one time, luxury bathroom suites. Externally there is approximately 14 acres of beautiful landscaped gardens and mature woodland, along with ample parking for up to eight vehicles. A golf course occupies the former parkland.

The Castle 2 (Urban Base)

The Castle 4 (Urban Base)

The Castle 3 (Northern Echo)

The Castle 9 (Northern Echo)

The Castle 11 (Northern Echo)

The Castle 8 (Northern Echo)

The Castle 9 (Urban Base)

The Castle 6 (Urban Base)

The Castle 10 (Urban Base)

The Castle 15 (Urban Base)

STOUTS HILL

A Georgian Gothic-style country house that became a boarding school and time share apartments

Stouts Hill 1 (KF)

The asking price of £2 million for Stouts Hill, on the outskirts of Uley village, appears somewhat modest in today’s property market. According to Knight Frank, Stouts Hill is an impressive Grade II* Strawberry Hill Georgian Gothic-style country house time share club/resort which sits in a stunning valley in the Cotswold Hill escarpment, surrounded by 22 acres. Subject to planning there is potential to convert the house back into a substantial family home. Stouts Hill was converted into timeshare apartments in 1979 and is currently arranged as 8 reception rooms, 9 apartments and 5 two bedroom cottages. The Stouts Hill Club Limited will cease operation on point of sale and subject to planning there is the potential to convert the house into a stunning family home.

Stouts Hill 4 (KF)

The historian, Nicholas Kingsley, in his ‘The Country Houses of Gloucestershire’, says Stouts Hill was bought in 1697 by Timothy Gyde, a clothier. In 1716, it was settled on his son Thomas who died in 1743. It passed to his son, Timothy Gyde II, ‘a man of different outlook to his father’. He built a new house, probably constructed by William Halfpenny, ‘entertained lavishly, kept a mistress, gambled, and paid insufficient attention to his business’. The inevitable meant that it was bought in 1785 by the Rev. William Lloyd Baker who lived here until his death in 1830. His son, Thomas Barwick Lloyd Baker, bought Hardwicke Court, near Gloucester, and Stouts Hill was used as a secondary home, occupied by a relation, Colonel Benjamin Chapman Browne, whose family remained until the early part of the 20th century. The Colonel’s son, Sir Benjamin Chapman Browne, was later Mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and chairman of the Tyneside engineering and shipbuilding firm of Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd.

Stouts Hill was let by Olive Lloyd Baker to the Hardinge Preparatory School who transferred here in 1935. ‘The picturesque and delightfully situated house has been modernised, is equipped with central heating and is in excellent order‘. Not that ‘delightful’, as it would appear to have been empty for two years, with no electricity or main drainage. It became known as Stouts Hill School, whose notable boarders later included Captain Mark Phillips and the actor Stephen Fry, closing in 1979.

Stouts Hill 5 (KF)

Stouts Hill 6 (KF)

Stouts Hill 7 (KF)

Stouts Hill 8 (KF)

Stouts Hill 9 (KF)

Stouts Hill 10 (KF)

Stouts Hill 11 (KF)

DINMORE MANOR HOUSE

An impeccable Grade II listed manor house with Gothic touches 

Dinmore Manor 1 (Savills)

This country house estate at Hope Under Dinmore is currently on the market and likely to cost potential buyers well over £30 million. At its centre is Dinmore Manor, a Grade II listed large country house in a well-wooded, hilly part of Herefordshire. It includes a substantial acreage of about 1,552 acres including productive arable land, pasture and woodland. The house was erected on the site of a Preceptory about the time of Queen Elizabeth and, according to records, altered around 1830 and extended about 1928.

Since 1732 it was in the possession of the Fleming and St. John families and has enjoyed remarkably few owners since.

By the turn of the 20th century it was in the possession of the Rev. Harris Fleming St. John (1833-1903), who, as an only son, inherited from his father, Fleming St. John. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, with a Master of Arts and in 1878 married Gertrude Margaret Ward, the eldest surviving daughter of Charles Ward of Clifton. He enjoyed an ecclesiastical career after being ordained as a Deacon in 1859 and a Priest from 1861. He became Chaplain of Dinmore Preceptory Chapel in 1879 having formerly filled curacies at Kempsford, Gloucestershire, and Leeds, and had acted as Domestic Chaplain to Bishop Wodford of Ely (1873-85). The chapel at Dinmore was fully restored by him in 1886. Being Lord of the Manor at Dinmore (and owning Henwick Grange, Worcestershire) meant he was also a considerable landowner.

Dinmore Manor 26 (Savills)
Following Harris St. John’s death, the Dinmore estate passed to his son, Oliver Stukely Fleming St. John (1881-1955), a man more akin to the land, who made his wealth as a fruit grower at Kipperknowle Farm.  He was educated at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, and later gained the rank of Lieutenant between 1916 and 1919 in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He married, firstly, Agnes Margaret Jane Jenkin in 1913 and, secondly, Elizabeth Sarah Ross in 1924.

In 1927 the estate was bought by Richard Hollins Murray (1882-1957) who was responsible for the house we see today. Murray was a Chartered Accountant and a Manchester-based Company Director, also owning a large house called Erlesdine, at Bowden, Cheshire. In 1927, the same year he bought Dinmore Manor, he patented the idea of reflective glass beads for advertising signs and road signage, a concept later developed by Percy Shaw to create ‘cat’s eyes’ in the road.

ec7fd912-0c73-4719-88ac-fad5ecdece14
Richard Hollins Murray (1882-1957) bought Dinmore in 1927. (Image: HollinsMurray/Ancestry).

Richard Hollins Murray spent a considerable sum on the house, including several ‘Gothic’ additions, and restored the 13th century chapel of the Knight Hospitallers of Jerusalem, as well as the cloisters leading from the chapel to the manor. (Murray was an Officer of the Order of St. John Jerusalem). The gardens were also re-landscaped with the creation of a new rock garden. They became his ‘pride and joy’ and were regularly opened to the public. He enhanced them with amplifying apparatus in the belfry of the chapel through which classical music concerts were broadcast while visitors walked around the grounds.

Following his death in 1957 the estate passed to his son, Charles Ian Murray (1911-1976) and remained with the family until the end of the century. In 1999 it was bought by Martin Dawes, ‘a serial entrepreneur’, who made his fortune renting television and radio sets in the North-West in the Sixties. He pocketed £70 million from the sale of his Martin Dawes Telecommunications business to Cellnet and probably used this windfall to buy Dinmore Manor. Later, in 2002, he made up to £29 million by selling his 35 per cent stake in Opal Telecom, which was bought by Carphone Warehouse, of which he became a director.

In addition to the Manor House, the wider estate now includes 21 other residential properties, a magnificent shoot, an outstanding cattle breeding facility and a world class equestrian complex set up by Dawes for a reputed £14 million.

All images courtesy of Savills, except where stated.

Dinmore Manor 4 (Savills)

Dinmore Manor 5 (Savills)

Dinmore Manor 6 (Savills)

Dinmore Manor 7 (Savills)

Dinmore Manor 8 (Savills)

This home-made 8mm movie was produced by the Murray family of Dinmore Manor, Herefordshire, in 1938. The sound was added some years later. Music; excerpts from Les Preludes, Liszt.