Sixty years ago, Chevening was bequeathed to the nation to ensure that the estate would not be broken up, but would instead retain a significant role as a private house in public life.
In May 1959, the Chevening Estate Bill, published details about Lord Stanhope’s gift of Chevening, Kent, to the nation. Lord Stanhope, the owner, who would leave no heir to the earldom, and had been a widower since 1940, said that as long ago as 1937 he had told Neville Chamberlain of his intention to bequeath Chevening to the country. During the Second World War he had told Winston Churchill of his wish.
However, it fell to Harold Macmillan to make a formal acknowledgement of the gift.
An endowment provided for the upkeep and maintenance of the house and the 3,000-acre estate, which could be used by Prime Ministers, or nominated members of the Cabinet, or members of the Royal Family. There was also provision in the Bill for its use as the residence of the American Ambassador if other nominees failed to make use of the house.
Mr Macmillan said that the mansion had associations with
many distinguished statesmen. Lord Stanhope’s long service to the State, had
been crowned with a gift which would allow the rare beauty of Chevening and its
peace and serenity to serve the same high purpose which he and his forbears had
Chevening had been in the possession and occupation of seven
generations of Stanhopes, except for a brief period in 1769 when Lord Chatham
stayed here with his family. During this period Pitt planned the carriage drive
known as Lord Chatham’s Ride, partly to facilitate visits from his family
residence at Hayes to see his only daughter, who married Charles, later the
third Lord Stanhope.
Like many country houses Adlington had a purpose during wartime. However, the cost of upkeep meant it had to open its doors to the public afterwards.
In August 1942, Adlington Hall the historic home of the Leghs, had been in the possession of the family since 1352, when they first acquired it in the reign of Edward III.
The then-chatelaine, Mrs Cynthia Combermere Legh (1896-1983) , had turned a large part of the house into a maternity hospital for the wives of servicemen of all ranks, with a staff of skilled nurses and all the modern equipment. It was opened by St. Mary’s Hospitals, Manchester, under the title of ‘St. Mary’s Services Maternity Hospital’.
Wonderful oak-panelled rooms had become wards and nurseries, and inmates of the hospital were able to sit in the Great Hall, where stood the organ on which Handel, when a guest at Adlington, played and composed his music.
The Hall stood on a site that in Saxon times was used as a hunting lodge. After the Norman Conquest it passed to Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, and nephew of William the Conqueror.
In the thirteenth century it was granted to the Norman family of De Corona, and it was from their union with the De Leghs of Booth that its occupants were descended.
Successive generations of De Leghs carried out additions and alterations at Adlington, but the Hall still retained its ancient splendour. It was quadrangular in shape, and was in early times surrounded by a moat. The Great Hall was built between 1450 and 1505, and there were additions in typical black-and-white half-timbered Cheshire style, in 1581. Of this, the north-east corner and the east wing still stood, but the remainder had undergone rebuilding. The north front was added about 1600 and was built of dark-red brick; the west wing was rebuilt in 1749 and the south front – in Georgian style – in 1757.
All over England, Scotland and Wales, and for the most part for the same reason (the necessity of providing for upkeep), great mansions were being opened up to the public after the Second World War, and the public was flocking to these places, drawn in part by the rich treasures displayed, and in part perhaps by a natural curiosity to see the background of life as it was lived in the spacious days of privilege.
In April 1950, Adlington Hall became the latest to open its doors. The house is still privately owned by the Legh family and is open to the public for guided tours at advertised times.
Note:- While staying at Adlington Hall, Handel was inspired to write the Harmonious Blacksmith by hearing the notes from the anvil of the little wayside smithy near the hall.
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
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
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
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.
From the archives. January 1926. Haddon Hall had been unoccupied for nearly one hundred and fifty years. The new Duke of Rutland made it his duty to restore the old house and make it habitable again.
It was stated in the press that Haddon Hall, in Derbyshire, one of the most interesting and attractive manorial residences in England, was going to be closed to the public, who had long enjoyed the privilege of visiting it.
Its owner, the Duke of Rutland, whose ancestor, the third Duke, had been its last tenant about a hundred and fifty years before, was preparing it for occupation.
It was from Haddon Hall that the famous elopement of Dorothy Vernon and John Manners, the second son of the first Earl of Rutland, took place. To the betrothal of the pair Dorothy’s father, Sir George Vernon, the owner of the Hall and of many other manors and lordships, was opposed; but one night while dancing by a large party of guests was proceeding in the ballroom, Dorothy slipped out to meet her lover, with whom she rode off to Leicester, where they were married next day.
Dorothy was co-heiress of her father, and by the marriage Haddon Hall fell to the Manners family, of which her grandson, on succeeding as eighth Earl of Rutland, became the head. Dorothy’s name was preserved in Dorothy’s Garden, Dorothy’s Walk, Dorothy’s Door (through which she escaped on the night of the elopement), and Dorothy’s Steps (where she met her lover in readiness with horses for the flight).
The restoration of Haddon Hall got underway during the early years of the twentieth century. The 9th Duke of Rutland and his team began to find small everyday objects, lost or thrown away, evocative of the lives of the past occupants. The Duke recognised the importance of these finds and established a museum at Haddon Hall in which to display them.
Where once a mansion stood in open countryside. The railway and the growth of Whitley Bay as a seaside resort eventually sealed its fate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
An oasis in the Derbyshire countryside. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries had a big impact on the landscape, but it remained home to a composer and pianist.
These photographs of Mrs Sacheverell Coke and her children date from 1921, and were taken by Miss Compton Collier at Brookhill Hall, Pinxton, in Derbyshire. Mrs Sacheverell Coke was the widow of Lieutenant Langton Sacheverell Coke (1878-1914) of the Irish Guards, struck in the head with a bullet at Klein Zillebeke, near Ypres, in the first few months of World War One . He was the eldest son of Colonel William Langton Coke and in 1908 married Miss Dorothy Maye Huntingford (1881-1957), daughter of Captain George Huntingford, Royal Navy, of Hampshire. At one time he had been sub-editor of the Black and White magazine, a British illustrated weekly that was incorporated into The Sphere in 1912.
His heir was the little boy, Roger, seen in these pictures, who was born in 1913, and was now lord of the manor of Pinxton and joint lord of the manor of South Normanton. The little girl’s name was Betty, four years older than her brother.
There had been Cokes at Brookhill since the middle of the sixteenth century and the house was essentially Jacobean incorporating parts of an earlier building. Descended from Sir Edward Coke, the Attorney General for Elizabeth I, the family became important landowners, and since 1744 the Earl of Leicester title had been in the family. Until 1567, the house was known as Hill Brook House, and like many family seats, Brookhill had grown up over the centuries with each generation adding its mark.
By the 1960s, Brookhill and its park was stranded in an industrial landscape bounded on one side by nineteenth century developments of Pinxton and the twentieth century M1 motorway, which cut through the park on the other.
In 1972, Robert Innes-Smith wrote that the most important treasures of Brookhill had been dispersed, but it remained home to Roger Sacheverell Coke, now a distinguished composer and pianist, who did most of his work in his studio in the converted eighteenth-century stable block. For Roger’s 21st birthday, his mother had ordered the Coach House to be turned into an area where all his musical indulgences could be fulfilled.
Roger died in 1972, the house in perilous state, and his heir, Gilbert William Lloyd Darwin, sold the house, but not the estate, to the Cookson family who restored it.