Now known as The Hayes
The story of Wootton Hall might be considered that of the ‘Ugly Duckling’ in reverse. Nowadays the Victorian mansion is called The Hayes and its appearance is a pitiful keepsake of former glories.
The modest house was built in the late 1850s by Edward James King presumably for his own use. However, his death in 1860 meant it went to auction without ever being lived in. Along with it came 55 acres of rich pasture and meadow land in an idyllic rural location on the outskirts of Leek Wootton.
Now called Green Hayes the purchaser was a Cheshire cotton broker called Carl Frederick Trepplin who lived there until 1882¹.
The house attracted the attention of Francis Beresford Wright (1838-1911) who had been the victim of his own success. He came from a wealthy family and was an iron and coal proprietor of the Butterley Company in Derbyshire.
His family home, Aldercar Hall at Codnor, was under threat from encroaching industrial growth caused by his own company. At the height of the industrial revolution the nearby hamlets of Heanor and Langley Mill were also experiencing rapid growth and the rural idyll of Leek Wootton looked a more enticing prospect.
Wright belonged to an extremely wealthy family and his father was Francis Wright of Osmaston Manor in Derby. Marriage to Adeline Frances Henrietta Fitzherbert, eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Fitzherbert of Somersall Herbert Hall, in 1862, further strengthened his financial security.
Francis Beresford Wright renamed the house Wootton Court and made it the family home for the next 70 years.
Much as he had done at Aldercar Hall he spent a fortune rebuilding and expanding the house as well as enlarging the lake and creating beautiful gardens and lawns.
Wright died of a heart attack in 1911 and his widow would live at Wootton Court until her death in 1924. The house was inherited by their son, Arthur Fitzherbert Wright (1865-1952), who moved his family from Aldercar Hall and made a new life in the Warwickshire countryside.
It is said at Arthur Fitzherbert Wright was an amiable character and was well liked in the community. During World War Two the house was used to house nurses working at Warwick Hospital and he regularly welcomed people seeking refuge from the bombs of Coventry.¹
He died in 1952 and Wootton Court was put up for auction. It was described as being substantially of brick and tile, occupying a delightful position in wooded grounds. The auction brief outlined a house with an entrance hall, four reception rooms, games room, fifteen bed and dressing rooms, four bathrooms and seven attic rooms.²
While Arthur’s widow moved to nearby Stone Edge (built by Francis Beresford Wright in 1909) the Wootton Court estate was sold to Aubrey Jones, a Coventry builder. He managed the estate as a mixed farm with traditional crops.¹
The house was sold in 1972 to the Warwickshire and England cricketer, M.J.K. Smith, who foresaw a new direction for the estate. He converted several farm buildings into a country club and eventually sold it to Gordon Barrow, a local hotelier, in 1987.¹
By 1990 the estate was known as the Wootton Court Country Club and was sold, along with Wootton Court Farm, with the former grounds identified as a golf course. The Warwickshire Golf and Country Club was founded in 1994 with plans to build a 150-bedroom hotel.
The plan was abandoned and Wootton Court was renamed The Hayes and converted into several luxury apartments.
At what point Wootton Court was altered is uncertain. While the house retains its initial plan the central block has been shamefully robbed of its castellation and now looks more akin to a 1970s attempt at art deco rather than Victorian grandeur. The whole exterior has been refaced, virtually pebble-dashed, to obliterate the original brickwork and tiles. Now the house has become a sorry ‘ghost’ of its former self.
¹ Leek Wootton History Group
² Leamington Spa Courier (Friday 11th July 1952).
Courtesy of British Newspaper Archive
Leek Wootton, Warwick, CV35 7QU