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Now some four years and 50 houses into this little odyssey, Handed on must confess to being no nearer to divining common characteristics which might help explain how these remarkable, mostly lesser-known survivors have quietly defied the gravitational pull towards extinction. Which was certainly the narrative of the country house estate across much of the last century, the tidal force of structural decimation running at full spate in the immediate post-war years. So it was perhaps the good fortune of Orleton Hall – an estate which has passed only by inheritance since the C14 – at that moment to become temporarily subsumed within an altogether grander, aristocratic domain.

Now managed by the National Trust, spectacular Powis Castle remains the seat of the Earls of Powis. The two World Wars were to claim both sons of the 4th earl, so it was that the title and substantial estates descended in 1952 to his kinsman Edward Herbert of Orleton Hall, some thirty miles due east across the English border, on the other side of Shrewsbury.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

An advertisement in The Times 13 May 1957: ‘Young woman wanted to help in house and dining room, other staff kept, for Orleton Hall, Wellington, from June, and Powis Castle, Welshpool, from October. Apply The Countess of Powis‘. This seasonal arrangement continued for another decade at which point the entire Orleton estate and its history came – quite literally – to a Holt.

Mr Vesey Holt, Esq. to be precise, whose obituary in the Daily Telegraph recorded a positively Wodehousian stroke of fortune: ‘In 1967 Holt was unexpectedly given Orleton Hall, an 18th century house and 2,000-acre estate in Shropshire, by his uncle Edward, Earl of Powis’. Splendid, what?! Holt – scion of the military banking family – was the great-grandson of Anna Maria, Mrs Robert Herbert, an only child whose 1854 marriage effectively brought to an end Orleton’s 500-year association with the family name of Cludde.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

Another house and estate chiefly remarkable for its boggling longevity in the same hands, for over 300 years from the end of the C14 Orleton passed directly from Cludde father to Cludde son. In 1721 a nephew, William Cludde, was required and when his son Edward duly inherited he soon set about giving the existing medieval family seat a Georgian makeover.

see: DiCamillo Companion

see: DiCamillo

Kirsche Tortshen@Flickr

Kirsche Tortshen@Flickr

Expanded on three sides, some original timbering survives in the centre of Orleton Hall as does one arm of the square moat which originally surrounded it’s earlier incarnation. Cludde also updated the C16 gatehouse (left) – ‘Orleton’s most picturesque feature’¹ – while another eye-catching survival in the grounds is the ‘remarkable’² mid-C18 octagonal Chinoiserie gazebo (r). However, the delightful detailing of these two structures does rather serve to highlight the relatively featureless severity of the exterior of the grade II* listed Hall itself: ‘The windows devoid of any ornament, the [main] facade without platbands or quoins, the doorway little more than an opening’.³

see: CLA Midlands

see: CLA Midlands

The Field

The Field¹

Yet Orleton’s plainness was quite typical of Shropshire houses of the period (c1770), a trend being at once a reaction ‘to the decorative idioms of previous generations and a failure or disinclination to invent any other’. In the 1830s some slight relief was to arrive courtesy of prolific local architect Edward Haycock who, in addition to remodelling the interiors (r), would insert a colonnade into the shallow recess on the entrance side essayed in his favoured Greek Revival style. (Using the same Grinshill stone Haycock would late give full vent to this enthusiasm when creating Millichope Park 20 miles south.)

Richard Webb/geograph

Richard Webb/geograph

‘The mansion stands in a beautifully situated park and commands a magnificent view of the Wrekin, the bold arch of the mountain rising abruptly from the plain to heights unrivalled in England.’4 Although a public beauty spot, in the late C18 a 130-acre slice of this inspirational landmark was acquired by the Cluddes and remains part of the Orleton estate today following an abortive disposal attempt ten years ago (see: ‘Middle Earth for sale’).

Other sales have been successful, however, including that of nearby Burcot Manor which had come into the fold via a mid-C18 marriage. Latterly serving as the estate’s secondary residence, this ‘substantial chunk of spare property’ was sold – for the first time since at least 1650 – in 2004. And, rather more controversially, just last year another 37.5 of the estate’s 1,700 or so acres were shaved off when a proposed housing development which had locals ‘frothing at the mouth‘ was given the go-ahead by the local council.

source: Pinterest

source: WCC/Pinterest

‘There can be few pleasanter places to visit in summer than the Wellington Ground under the mighty Wrekin,’ observed one 1980s visitor of the cricket club established in the park at Orleton by Edward Herbert, later 5th earl of Powis.¹ But pleasant for how much longer wonder the denizens of the minor leagues venue. Just one amongst many to formally lodge reservations about the development of land abutting the eastern edge of the park, the club’s concerns ranged from the unwelcome prospect of players being put off their stroke by ‘music blasting out from a Saturday afternoon barbeque’ to mildy apocalyptic visions of flooding and dead children. 

Noticeably, this submission was cc’d to the club’s senior honorary figures – Mrs Elizabeth Holt (president) and Mr Peter Holt (deputy president, current owner of Orleton Hall and vendor of said land). But with this particular team currently on a score of 700 (years) not out, could the result ever seriously have been in doubt?

[Listing][Archive]

¹ Montgomery-Massingberd, H. The Field, 30 Aug 1986.
² Newman, J. and Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Shropshire, 2006.
³ Mercer, E. English architecture to 1900: the Shropshire experience, 2003.
4 Leach, F. County seats of Shropshire, 1891.

Sandbeck Park, Yorkshire

While history in its baldest telling is a matter of immutable fact, historical reputation is something altogether more fickle. The shifting sands of fashionable regard can be perfectly – and topically – exemplified by the career of Lancelot “Capability” Brown. As readers are probably aware, preparations are now well under way to celebrate in 2016 the tercentenary of the ‘genius’ Georgian landscaper’s birth, cementing his modern day standing as a more-or-less bulletproof heritage icon. In the era of Brown’s bicentenary, however, dissenting voices were not hard to find – ‘heritage hooligan’, more like:

It is to the 4th Earl of Scarbrough that attaches the reproach of having permitted Brown to work his wicked will on Roche Abbey. His lordship paid £3,000 to spoil the ruin and outrage its surroundings‘.¹

Being the trenchant reproof of an early-C20 correspondent to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and not untypical of a prevalent antiquarian antipathy which by this time attached to Brown’s aesthetical approach. But at Roche Abbey and across the rest of the Sandbeck Park estate, which lies some ten miles east of Rotherham, Lancelot was only doing as he had quite literally been contracted.

That he should set about his work here ‘with Poet’s feeling and with Painter’s eye’ was the peculiarly florid stipulation laid down by Richard Lumley, aforementioned 4th earl, in his formal commission to Brown in 1774. Lumley desired uplifting views from the rooms of his substantially remodelled mansion; though the abbey was never visible from the house, a chestnut avenue arrows westward across the park directly towards the ecclesiastical ruin some 2km distant.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

A Cistercian monastery founded in 1147, ‘Roche Abbey is an outstanding example of early Gothic architecture in England, a surviving account of its suppression [being] one of the most important sources describing a monastery’s destruction’. The remnants proved a boon for Lumley, however, providing the earl with a ready-made romantic ruin for which others would have to engage the likes of Sanderson Miller to create. Though ‘archaeologists curse Lancelot for dismantling the cloister and levelling the footprint of the building in the Picturesque cause’, Roche is also notable as Brown’s earliest essay in this direction.²

see: Chris Morgan @ geograph

see: Chris Morgan @ geograph

Today, Roche Abbey is managed by English Heritage but remains the property of the Lumleys, Earls of Scarbrough, part of a now 5,000-acre estate which has passed only by inheritance since 1549. (The original and considerably older family seat, Lumley Castle in County Durham, also remains in their possession, managed as a high-end hotel since 1976.)

In the post-Dissolution carve-up in this part of south Yorkshire it was the local Saunderson family’s land acquisitions which would become the foundation of the Sandbeck estate. Sir Nicholas Saunderson (d.1631) – ‘whose reputation as squire was not an altogether savoury one’ – never lived to see the completion of a house he had commissioned, no impressions of which survive. But the retention of a significant element during its Georgian remodelling would help to give Sandbeck as we see it today it’s singular stamp. Architect James Paine was engaged here in the 1760s, the end result being ‘no doubt one of his most dramatic designs. The garden front in particular, with its projecting portico [over] heavily rusticated arches…is not easily forgotten’.³

see: United Environmental Services

see: United Environmental Services

The last of the Saunderson line, James, Viscount Castleton died in 1723 leaving his ‘considerable estates’ in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to his maternal cousin Thomas Lumley, younger son of the 1st Earl of Scarbrough. The two families’ estates would fully coalesce unexpectedly in 1740 when Thomas’ elder brother Richard, 2nd Earl, ‘blew his brains out, for reasons that remain mysterious’ at his house in Grosvenor Square.4 A bachelor when he perished, all now flowed to Thomas.

The latter’s only surviving son, Richard, succeeded in 1752 promptly engaging James Paine to work not at Sandbeck but in developing the 4th earl’s Lincolnshire property at Glentworth. However, his wife, Barbara Savile – herself an heiress who would bring Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire to the Lumleys – possibly had other ideas. Long before Lancelot Brown had been anywhere near the place she had declared Sandbeck to be “inexpressibly charming” and in time Paine’s energies would be redirected exclusively to their Yorkshire domain.

see: Anne E W @ flickr

see: Anne E W @ flickr

‘Rising high and high-waisted out of the green park..Sandbeck is unlike any other English house of its date.’4 Its distinctive proportions and plan are largely a function of the major room, the saloon, Paine’s repurposing of ‘a huge chamber traversing the first floor front of the house’, an arrangement by then a century out of fashion.5 This epic space features ‘a superb plaster ceiling of c.1775, perhaps the best in any Paine house’.³

Doubtless beneficial in the project management of Sandbeck’s 1760s remodelling was the ready supply of limestone from the quarry at Roche Abbey, an estate asset never as commercial as it might have been due to poor transport links. (This did, however, leave all the more for other family development schemes – like Skegness. A Saunderson manor since the early C17, the 9th earl (d.1884) would develop its seaside resort potential in the 1870s replacing a coastal hamlet with an entirely new model town, the sea wall promenade built with Roche Abbey stone.)6

The eventual arrival of the railway locally made viable the exploitation of other Sandbeck mineral resources, Maltby colliery being established just NW of the park in the early C20. Not that any such brutal practicalities were ever visible from the big house, of course, thanks to the idyllic cocoon conjoured by Capability Brown in the 250 ha park and beyond. ‘Perhaps no great house in Yorkshire is more out of the way than the Earl of Scarbrough’s seat. Nothing can be seen of it until several sylvan labyrinths and luxuriant groves have been threaded’ – a 1900 observation which still broadly holds, Sandbeck remaining an essentially private domain.

see: Safe@Last

see: Safe@Last

The harsher realities of life do occasionally pierce this cultivated haven, however, through the charitable activities of the current 13th earl and countess (r) . One local affiliation is a now decade-long patronage of the charity Safe@Last which focuses on the needs of vunerable, often abused young people in south Yorkshire. Now clay shooting may be the unlikeliest of social service allies but, as last year’s grim revelations from Rotherham, the Scarbroughs’ local town, show, Sandbeck’s guns are aimed in the right direction…

see: Google Streetview

see: Google Streetview

[Up close with the Grove and Rufford Hunt 2013]

¹ Sheffield Daily Telegraph 11 June 1904.
² Brown, J. The omnipotent magician: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 1716-1783, 2011.
³ Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Yorkshire The West Riding, 1967.
4 Girouard, M. Sandbeck Park, Yorkshire I/II/III, Country Life Oct 1965.
5 Harris, J. The architect and the British country house 1620-1920, 1985.
6 Beastall, T. A North Country estate, 1975.

Radburne Hall, Derbyshire

‘The Hulton family’s occupation of Hulton Park is documented since 1167, reputedly the lengthiest uninterrupted occupation of any UK estate..and has never previously been sold.’ When, in 2010, property investment company Peel Holdings acquired the entire 1000-acre Hulton Park Estate in Lancashire another piece could be added to the jigsaw of land ownership in England and Wales. The official keeper of the puzzle, the Land Registry, acknowledges that the jigsaw is only 80% complete, a significant area having ‘never been registered because it has never been sold’. (They also admit that trying to find out the ownership of such land ‘will often come down to your own detective work’, suggesting that you ‘ask in the local pub’.)

In its own small way, this blog could be viewed as an accidental register of unsold England since all of the places featured naturally qualify as ‘missing pieces’. Many of these estates have changed hands for money at least once, of course, though not since 1862 when the Land Registry came into being. But places like Shuckburgh and Severn End can still claim the 800-plus years history unsullied by commercial exchange that was Hulton’s boast before it succumbed. And there is another such place just outside Derby.

Exiting that city to the west one almost immediately encounters another piece of England that time forgot, being the 3,000-acre Radburne Hall estate, seat of the Chandos-Pole family and passed only by inheritance and marriage since the C12.

see: Bing Maps

see: Bing Maps

A ‘relatively unknown house’¹ built by a ‘minor Palladian’,² sitting amidst a large park created by a landscaper ‘with none of Capability Brown’s genius’,³ Radburne’s resolutely provincial connections nevertheless combined to produce what has been described as ‘the most perfect of all the Georgian seats in Derbyshire, if not further afield’.4 But it is perfection with some distinctly similar contemporaries.

see: Adventures in Apiculture

see: Adventures in Apiculture

‘Begun in 1739. Red brick, placed on an eminence. Seven bays, stone-faced basement storey and two main storeys. The central, slightly projecting, three bays crowned by a carved stone pediment.’5 Pevsner on Radburne, remarks which could also describe a place like Wolterton Hall, which Thomas Ripley was finishing for Lord Walpole in Norfolk just as Radburne was going up (and remains in that family). More especially, they could apply to…

Kelmarsh @ ArtFund

Kelmarsh @ ArtFund

…Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire (r). Completed in 1732 Kelmarsh was designed by architect James Gibbs but built by Francis Smith of Warwick. The house was one of several major projects Gibbs contracted to Smith’s firm which would develop, from relatively humble beginnings, into the most prolific architectural building practice in the Midlands during the first half of the C18. Integrity and reliability were the keys to the Smiths’ prosperity, producing houses to a tried and tested plan: not especially original but ‘convenient and handsome’, realised with excellent craftsmanship and on budget – even, sometimes, as at Radburne, under it.

see: picturethepast

see: picturethepast

William Smith had succeeded to the business on the death of his father in 1738 and was soon tasked with replacing the old house of the Pole family at the behest of the then incumbent, German Pole. ‘The sum it cost him was comparatively small’, German’s great-nephew and subsequent heir Sacheverell recalled: ‘Smith of Warwick was his architect and he completed it for five hundred pounds under his estimate which he had the honesty to return.’²

In 1807 Sacheverell would adopt the ‘Chandos’ prefix in recognition of the exploits Sir John Chandos (d.1370), an original Garter Knight, a female heir of whom his ancestor Sir Peter de la Pole had married some 400 years previously. The Chandos family had themselves acquired the manor of Radbourne by marrying into the de Ferrers, Radbourne having been amongst the estates granted to William the Conquerer’s ally Henry de Ferrers.

see source

see source

Sacheverell Chandos-Pole is captured as a babe-in-arms in an ‘astonishing’6 portrait by Joseph Wright of Derby, one of several works commissioned from the artist by his father to adorn a remodelled saloon in 1771-2 (r). Later in life Sacheverell himself would patronise Wright, commissioning a portrait of his then stepfather, a man who just happened to be one of the most extraordinary figures of his or, indeed, any age.

Erasmus Darwin (d. 1802) was a man of bogglingly diverse perspicacity, devising a steering system later adopted by Henry Ford, publishing a theory of evolution sixty years before his grandson, a groundbreaking exposition of the artesian well and volumes of verse which would see him recognised ‘as the leading English poet in the country’.7 Darwin’s bread and butter, however, was as a medic and it was while attending upon Sacheverell’s ailing young sisters in 1778 that he would form an attachment to Mrs. Pole. Rather conveniently, within a couple of years Mr. Pole – thirty years his wifes senior – was dead, his coveted young widow stunning local society by marrying the well-furnished 50-year-old physician. The Darwins lived at Radburne Hall for two years before its impractical location forced a family move into Derby.

see source

see source

The saloon and indeed all of the principal interior spaces at Grade I-listed Radburne sing perfectly of their Georgian origins and all appears just as we have come to expect of such places. But this is an expectation with its roots as much in the last century as the eighteenth, in the mission of the man hired in the late 1950s by Radburne’s most recent occupants to help reverse decades of neglect. John Fowler – ‘the most influential interior decorator of his generation’ – is credited with the invention of the English country house style. ‘Self-taught, instinctive, blind as a bat’,8 Fowler’s approach to such restoration projects was meticuously conservative, scraping (literally, with a coin) his way around a property on the hunt for aesthetically acceptable ‘original’ detail. ‘Radburne is one of John’s finest surviving jobs, the interiors entirely appropriate to the house’.¹

see: Chas Miller

see: Chas Miller

In the past decade attention has been focused outside with a project to restore the 600-acre park guided by an extant plan of 1790 by the man who originally laid it out. William Emes was head gardener at nearby Kedleston Hall before going freelance as a landscape improver, hoovering up most of the Midlands clients who could not interest (or perhaps afford) Capability Brown. The view from the west-facing oculus window would likely still please both.

see: DerbyshireUK

see: DerbyshireUK

The Poles held firmly to a static position in society as prosperous landed gentry, below the aristocracy and above the middle class..carrying out their military or county duties6 – a tradition upheld by Major John Chandos-Pole, DL, JP, until he died in 1994. Survived by his widow Jill and one daughter, his death marked the end of the male line – and the family name – at Radburne. Well, not quite. Look closely at the current edition of Debrett’s and the name ‘John Chandos-Pole’ can be found, albeit book-ended by the names ‘Edward’ and ‘Chichester’. For after centuries of gentry status the foothills of aristocracy now beckon for Radburne, Margaret Chandos-Pole having married Sir James Chichester, 12th Baronet, an old West Country-rooted title now destined for gloriously Georgian Derbyshire. Lucky 13!

¹ Wood, M. John Fowler: Prince of decorators, 2007.
² Gomme, A. Smith of Warwick, 2000.
³ Wilde, W. The work of William Emes, Country Life 15 Oct 1987.
4 Craven, M. and Stanley, M. The Derbyshire country house vol.2, 2001.
5 Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Derbyshire, 1978.
6 Nicolson, B. Joseph Wright of Derby: painter of light, 1968.
7 King-Hele, D. Erasmus Darwin: A life of unequalled achievement, 1977.
8 Lees-Milne, J. Fourteen friends, 1996.

Newhouse, Wiltshire

The foundations of both may have been somewhat undermined in modern times but Britain’s country houses (and their owners) have long understood the value of the institution of matrimony. Delving into the history of long-held country estates, the advantageous marriage is not hard to find, provident alliances historically a key means by which to bolster, sometimes super-charge, an estate’s fortunes. In the C18 ‘financial considerations often determined a family’s marital priorities [with] heiresses regarded as particularly good catches’.¹ And today marriage is once more playing a significant role in sustaining many an ancestral seat as country houses across the land vie to host ‘the wedding of your dreams’.

“I always wondered how people afforded to live in these lovely places. The answer was that many couldn’t. When I suggested weddings most bit my hand off“, said Diana Hastie, the founder of Country House Wedding Venues, recently. This enterprise is now one of many such agencies (1/2/3) whose websites, along with those of the individual properties themselves, today offer a rich source of what has been called ‘country house porn’ (a term, by-the-by, taken a tad literally in the latest edition of Tatler magazine). By way of a purely serendipitous example of the myriad options now available to the happy couple wanting to marry in surroundings to which they are unlikely ever to become accustomed, a simple dropped vowel during researches for this post inadvertantly took Handed on to the dedicated weddings website of Nether Whichendon House.

see: ArtFund

see: ArtFund

Deep in the Chilterns, this medieval/Tudor house was romantically Gothicised to his own design by Scrope Bernard in the late C18. Sir Francis Bernard (d.1779) had inherited a somewhat neglected pile late in life and his will instructed that the place be sold. And so it was but the buyer, against advice, was to be his youngest son, Scrope, possibly emboldened by his marriage to Harriet Morland…a banking heiress. Nether Whichendon remains in the family: ‘Timelessly enchanting and fabulous, this venue is absolutely unique and perfect for a truly romantic day and wonderful photographs…

…many galleries of which are displayed on their weddings website (there is another detailing public opening times and history). Alongside the pictorial riches afforded by such online marketing, the expansion of the role of the wedding photographer – from cheery snapper to virtual artist-in-residence – has likewise been a great incidental boon for the likes of your humble country house blogger. Gone, seemingly, are those ritualised post-ceremony permutations, now replaced by an immersive, fantasy-tinged photo-documentary of the entire day, often yielding revelatory perspectives of the hosting houses. (Long-standing Handed on readers will appreciate the exciting rarity of these interior images, for example.)

see: Newhouse Estate

see: Newhouse Estate

One particularly novel country house vista can be found on the website of ‘the wedding and special events venue’ that is the 1,300-acre Newhouse Estate in Wiltshire. In the view of one visitor, ‘the most extraordinary object on view at Newhouse is the ‘Hare’ picture (r) said to have been painted about 1640 as a satirical attack on the contemporary Court party‘.² Far be it from Handed on to gainsay the mighty Massingberd but this blog recommends the adjacent easel-mounted ariel perspective of this place for closest inspection.

For, however remarkable anything inside Newhouse might be, nothing can surely trump the extraordinariness of the building itself:

see: Angus Kirk @ flickr

see: Angus Kirk @ flickr

No, this is not a trick of photography but two arms of Newhouse’s three-pronged assault on the architectural senses. The seat of the Eyres and their descendants (today Jeffreys) since 1633, Grade 1-listed Newhouse is a remarkable and surprisingly little-documented survival, being one of only two Y-shaped ‘Trinity’ houses in existence (and much the best, the other being this C17 farmhouse in Herefordshire). ‘In late C16 England people were addicted to hidden meanings. Codes, devices and punning allusions were everywhere..entire buildings were constructed in the form of riddles‘.³ And John Thorpe – one of the six architects memorialised on the façade of the Victoria and Albert Museum – was as keen a practitioner as any.

see: Barry Deakin

see: Barry Deakin

Among the few buildings which can be confidently associated with Thorpe are Thomas Tresham’s triangular lodge in Northamptonshire and the similarly triadic Longford Castle near Salisbury in Wiltshire (r). ‘One of the most freakish Elizabethan houses, [it’s] plan based on the shield assigned in medieval heraldry to the Holy Trinity’, Longford has been the seat of the Earls of Radnor since 1717 but had been built in the late C16 for the Gorge family.4 In 1619 Sir Edward Gorge acquired the Newhouse estate a few miles to the S-E, with a ‘Mansion..late erected’, from William Stockman only to sell it again, in 1633, to another local landowner, Giles Eyre. Newhouse would change hands for money one last time in 1660 but on this occasion it was a family deal, Giles’s grandson William selling the place to his cousin, Sir Samuel Eyre, for £2000.

Samuel’s eldest son, lawyer Robert, his inheritance of Newhouse naturally assured, devoted his energies forging a notable parliamentary career. (Younger brother Henry, meanwhile, made his own way, buying in 1733 500 rural acres just outside London called St. John’s Wood. Later developed as a pioneering garden suburb whose character is still policed, the Eyre Estate remains with this branch of the family, the sale in 2011 of a 5.5 acre site yielding some £250 million for the 50 or so present-day beneficiaries of the family trust.)

see: Wikimapia

see: Wikimapia

see: Angus Kirk

see: Angus Kirk

The house inherited by Sir Robert’s son, also Robert, was still in it’s original form (above): a three-storey central hexagon with radial extensions on alternate sides, the entrance facade crowned by a trio of triangular gables. He would add the N-W wing c.1742 which points towards the stable block (above) erected shortly before he died childless in 1752. Newhouse would eventually go to his cousin Samuel whose matching S-E wing balanced the main facade and houses the ballroom which today ‘will seat a maximum of 102 guests for a wedding breakfast’…

…a point in proceedings still usually characterised by civility and order. Which rarely lasts, of course. Alexander Chancellor, the inheritor of ‘two crumbling Inigo Jones pavilions‘ in Northamptonshire, recently revealed the flipside of the country house wedding hosts’ lot : ‘It’s no fun being here when these noisy parties are going on; nor next morning to find my house surrounded by cars that have been left behind by drivers who have drunk too much the night before. Occasionally, I even find condoms in the flowerbeds.’

see: Wikimapia

see: Wikimapia

No doubt in the quarter of a century during which they have been hosting such events the Jeffreys of Newhouse will likewise have encountered their share of eye-opening goings on. But what is equally certain is that the thousands of wedding-goers who have had the pleasure of being their guests in that time will never have seen anything quite like it either…

[Newhouse Estate][Listing][Visit via the HHA]

1. Beckett, J.V. The aristocracy in England 1660-1914, 1986.
2. Massingberd, H. Newhouse in the shape of a ‘Y’, The Field, 21 June 1986.
3. Asquith, C. Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare, 2005.
4. Hussey, C. Longford Castle I/II/III, Country Life, Dec 1931.

Busby Hall, North Yorkshire

When is a ‘big house’ never quite big enough? Answer: When it has been the inspiration for a classic novel set to be dramatised for television. ”Mr Rochester’s house wins,’ declared Country Life last month, reporting that this year’s HHA Restoration Award had been won by Norton Conyers, ‘the house said to have inspired Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre‘.

see: BookMoot

see: BookMoot

Charlotte Bronte’s book has been filmed numerous times, most recently by the BBC in 2006. Did this production feature GII*-listed Norton Conyers (r), charming gabled manor house and seat of the Graham family since 1624? Or, perhaps, that other modestly-proportioned ‘Thornfield’ contender in Yorkshire, Thornton Hall? No, it did not, producers favouring instead – not for the first time – the dramatic Grade I splendour of Haddon Hall, Derbyshire.

When it comes to screen adaptations of the classic ‘country house’ novel, it would seem, size matters.

In period drama’s tendency towards grade inflation (and many other respects) it was ITV’s landmark 1981 serialisation of Brideshead Revisited that raised the bar, aggrandizing mid-sized Madresfield Court, which fired Evelyn Waugh’s imaginings, into the palatial dimensions of Castle Howard. (These days the casting of ‘the house’ has become a mini-industry in itself.) One of the most recent entries into the field was Sir Tom Stoppard’s assured 2012 adaptation for the BBC of Parade’s End, Ford Madox Ford’s end-of-era tetralogy arcing World War One. It starred Benedict Cumberbatch as the central figure Christopher Tietjens, stolid, maddeningly correct and anguished about many things including the destiny of the family pile, Groby Hall.

In his creation of this milieu Ford would draw heavily upon the character and background of his some-time friend Arthur Marwood, a relationship which, though ultimately doomed, had provided the author with a much desired entre into landed society. Arthur was a scion of the Marwoods of Busby Hall, seated here now for well over 400 years. Appropriately, a house on the edge of the North Yorks moors was used as the filming location for the scenes at Groby – but it wasn’t GII* Busby Hall.

Paul Buckingham @ geograph

Paul Buckingham @ geograph

‘The only stately home in the North Yorks Moors National Park’, begins this newspaper profile of Duncombe Park, putting Busby, 14 miles to the north and similary just within Park bounds, firmly in it’s place. This Grade I house (r) by local man William Wakefield (heavily cribbing the likes of Vanburgh and Hawksmoor¹) was built in 1713 for the Duncombes, later Earls of Feversham; it and the 13,000-acre Helmsley Estate remain in their hands.

BBC’s Parade’s End was promoted in some quarters as the thinking person’s Downton Abbey but unlike at Highclere Castle, Duncombe Park wasn’t bracing itself for the hordes – the house has been closed to the public since 2010. “It was a difficult decision to close and certainly nothing to do with privacy”, present custodian Jake Duncombe explained. “We were happy to share the house [but], in effect, we were paying people to look around.” Meanwhile, over at the ‘real’ Groby…

see: Busby Estate

see: Busby Estate

… opening to the public has never been on the agenda though if architect John Carr, the Georgian dynamo of the north, had had his way Busby Hall would project a slightly grander, statelier presence. It would be the decisions – pragmatic or emotional, depending upon interpretation – of his one-time client, Mrs Jane Turner, that would determine not only the appearance of the house but also who gets to live there today.

see: Google Streetview

see: Google Streetview

Sitting just below the rising slopes of the Cleveland Hills, with it’s westerly aspect commanding a panoramic vista of the Leven vale, the Busby estate was acquired by William Marwood in 1587. William’s nephew George, created a baronet during his own tenure at Busby, had a son, Henry, and daughter. The latter wed William Metcalfe (remember that name) of Porch House, Northallerton; Henry’s only son and heir George would predecease him, decoupling the title (which a short sequence of childless nephews would consign to extinction) from the estate, the entirety of which would flow to George’s daughter, Jane.

see source

see source

In 1757 Jane lost her husband of 46 years, Cholmley Turner MP, a wealthy landowner with an estate at Kirkleatham, some 12 miles N-E of Busby. With the Turner estates now going to a nephew, Jane returned ‘home’ to Busby. Working drawings for a failed moneyspinning gazeteer of Yorkshire houses c.1720 by entrepreneurial antiquarian John Warburton and his young draughtsman Samuel Buck give an impression of the house she came back to (above). Possibly accustomed to better at Kirkleatham Hall – ‘It is a thousand pities that the Hall was allowed to disappear,’ Pevsner would lament ten years after its demolition – Jane determined that Busby was due a fashionable upgrade.

In the same year she was widowed, Turner did what everyone else in these parts was doing at the time and called in John Carr. The Marwood archive contains the architect’s proposed designs for ‘an elegant new facade of seven bays and two storeys with a 3-bay pediment with Rococo cartouche, and a surprisingly architectural office wing’.²

see: Ryan Browne

see: Ryan Browne

But, for reasons unclear, Turner would eventually give the job to Kirkleatham builder Robert Corney who, whilst retaining flourishes such as the imperial staircase and it’s illuminating Venetian window, executed a smaller, less extravagant design though one ‘clearly based on the drawings of Carr’.²

Jane Turner’s son died unmarried aged 22 leaving just a daughter, also Jane. But while she herself had inherited Busby as a woman Jane Snr. would see to it that Jane Jnr. most definitely did not. One academic has suggested that Turner’s will, in which everything was to go instead to the sons of a distant relative, Thomas Metcalfe, with a strict male entail requiring adoption of the Marwood name everafter, reflected ‘the belief that land was masculine’.³ But less than fifty years after the event a rather more dramatic explanation of blatant disinheritance was recorded.

see: Oakminster / NYM planning

see: Oakminster / NYM planning

In his depiction of an old landed family in crisis in Parade’s End it might seem odd that Ford Madox Ford would create the Tietjens, ‘who came over with Dutch William’. But perhaps the writer had been apprised of this pivotal moment in Busby’s story and was imagining what might have been. For daughter Jane fell in love with and duly married Capt. Philip Van Straubenzee, an officer in the Dutch forces co-opted to resist the Jacobite rebellion. This union, it is said, appalled Jane’s mother whose animus neither the Dutchman’s later British naturalisation nor christening their first born Marwood Turner did anything to temper. Mrs Van Straubenzee and son were out in the cold: ‘It was by her disinheritance that the Metcalfes became the Marwoods of Busby’.

Ironically, the Van Straubenzees have climbed higher than Jane Turner could ever have dreamt. What’s more, her stipulation that subsequent heirs be male would open the doors of Busby Hall to another European emigre family following the premature death at 35 of George Marwood in 1893. Despite having been one of 13 children born to George (Metcalfe) Marwood and wife Frances, an early-C20 interregnum would ensue at Busby due to the practical unavailability of George’s four brothers, being variously: a high-flying career civil servant in London (William); a career soldier in India (Henry); a sickly intellectual (Arthur); dead (Charles). So, not for the first time, the Hall was available to let.

see source

see source

‘The present occupants of Busby Hall are Mr and Mrs Gjers who have done much to improve it and make it one of the most up-to-date country residences in Cleveland,’ noted this 1912 work. A family of innovative Swedish ironmasters who prospered on Teeside, the Gjers’ tenancy at Busby was apparently an unqualified boon for the place which is rather more than can be said of…

…Mrs. Millicent de Bray Pape, the unsuitable American to whom Groby is rented in the final volume of Parade’s End. One act of symbolic barbarism sees the felling of the totemic ‘Groby Great Tree’, a feature inspired by a magnificent chestnut – ‘said to be the largest in England’ – in the gardens of Busby Hall. Now while Duncombe Park may have been able to satisfy television’s predilection for Grade 1 grandeur the producers of Parade’s End had to manufacture their own tree out of polystyrene. Genealogical purists might suggest an element of contrivance, too, about the Marwood family tree but in this respect, of course – much like the Van Straubenzees these days – they’re keeping some very good company

[Listing][Busby Estate simulated shoot]

¹ Hussey, C. Duncombe Park I/II/III, Country Life, Feb 1957.
² Wragg, B. The life and works of John Carr of York, 2000.
³ Capern, A. Women, land and family in early-modern North Yorkshire [download].

Jayes Park, Surrey

Being by some margin the most densely populated of the old English shires and with its towns just a half-hour train ride from 7 million-plus Londoners, willfully or otherwise, Surrey has to be as hard a county as any in which to sustain obscurity. But a 2012 edition of Country Life magazine insisted that the place did still have some relatively undiscovered corners, listing ‘The ten secrets of Surrey: Everyone knows about Hampton Court, Clandon Park, Leith Hill…’

The last-named landmark is, some may know, topped by the unambiguously conspicuous erection that is Leith Hill Tower, an C18/C19 structure designed to be seen and to see from. Now managed by the National Trust, its platform is the highest elevation in S-E England offering, on a clear day, a limitless prospect in all directions. In the immediate vicinity ‘leafy Surrey’ is here at its leafiest. Looking north, the dense woodland of the Surrey Hills AONB is interrupted by a celebrated pastoral swathe between Guildford and Dorking. Here, ‘the landscape owes its timeless beauty to the benign ownership of local estates: the Dukes of Northumberland at Albury; the Bray family at Shere and the Evelyns of Wotton. These estates encompass thousands of acres, with some ownership going back to the C16.’¹

But while these particular estates are indeed still intact none of their associated ‘big houses’ remain in these families’ hands, all now having been sold off and variously repurposed. Turn about and look south from Leith Hill Tower, however, and there is a different story…

…albeit one which would appear to remain substantially untold. As the woods end and the land gently slopes away towards the Sussex Weald much of the immediate vista, significantly unchanged for centuries, is comprised of the Jayes Park Estate, family and little-known, always private, house still intact. Being also visible from the road, it could be said that Jayes Park has long been hidden in plain sight.

see: Google Streetview

see: Google Streetview

An ancient family…it is certain that no-one not possessing the patronimic of Steere has ever lived at Jayes since the Conquest,‘ stated a 1879 profile of then owner, Lee Steere MP (1803-90).² A mightily impressive claim, to be sure, and a line which one local firm of estate agents found quite irresistible when tasked with marketing Jayes, circumstances having led to the house being available to let for a period in the mid-1930s: ‘Never before on the market since the Conquest’.

Attempting to ascertain the veracity of this statement, Handed on turned to Burke’s Family Index (pub. 1976, ‘a reliable and comprehensive guide to the 20,000 different family entries’ featured in Burke’s Peerage and Landed Gentry volumes since 1826) and found … absolutely nothing. No entry for Lee-Steere of Jayes Park ever. Which was frustrating, of course, yet at the same time really rather impressive.

Initially, the publicly available archive of documents relating to the Jayes Estate of the Lee Steere Family appears persuasive, spanning as it does the period C12-1920. (Though this collection has been on deposit since 1951 an experienced-looking archivist on duty at the Surrey History Centre when Handed on dropped by seemed never to have heard of the place – more bonus points!) The Centre’s page-and-a-half catalogue description stands as the most detailed historical scrutiny this place has ever received. It, and Ockley parish registers, certainly confirm the local presence of Steeres in the early C16 but reveals that ‘the property called Jayes was acquired by Thomas Steere in 1609′.

see: Robin Webster@geograph

see: Robin Webster@geograph

And it has never been sold since, passing by descent to present-day owner, Gordon Lee-Steere. The 1675 union of John Steere and heiress Fiducia Lee would lend a contemporary sounding Christian name to their son, Lee, and most subsequent Jayes Park squires until merging into the surname at the end of the C19.

The estate in John Steere’s day was c.800 acres and has since grown to its present 2,700 acres. Similarly, the residence has developed and enlarged over this time but just exactly when and how appears not to have been explored in any great detail. Turning again – with due caution – to that estate agent’s advertisement of 1935:

‘The main portion of the house is Georgian the rear of it being probably Elizabethan. 17 bed and dressing rooms. Garden and pleasure grounds..enjoy that distinctive character which age alone can give.

see: steerefarm.com

see: steerefarm.com

But architectural artifice can sometimes lend a hand, of course: ‘Elegant classical stock-brick front which looks early C19 but is actually of 1913, very restrained and unusual for the date‘.³
see: Surrey History Centre

see: Surrey History Centre

Pevsner’s one line entry for Jayes, concurring with the G.II-listing text that the entire main facade is neo-Regency. What to make then of these two photos (above, c.1908; r, 1972) which appear to suggest that the tower and an additional bay were the most fundamental alterations a century ago to what this 1822 account described as ‘Mr Lee Steere Steere’s..recently completed noble mansion’.

see: Surrey History Centre

see: Surrey History Centre

jayesgateAnd while the story of Jayes Park’s entrance facade is inexact the evolution of the diverse red-brick elements in rear, not the least of which being several fanciful turrets accentuating the garden walls at various points, is only marginally less so.

By contrast, indisputably a matter of record are the cruel blows dealt to the Lee-Steere male line in the last century by both World Wars. The present owner was but a few months old when his fighter pilot father Charles was lost over Dunkirk in May 1940. And the myriad melancholy WWI centenaries now coming upon us will soon include that of the death of the 19-year-old only son of Henry and Anna Lee-Steere of Jayes Park.

Novice platoon commander 2nd Lt. John Henry Gordon Lee-Steere left England for the front line on 16 Oct 1914. “I must confess to being rather jumpy at the moment,” he wrote home from the trenches in Ypres soon after. “The Germans have so many fresh troops they keep flinging in while we only just have enough to keep them off”, he reported ominously in another letter dated 17 Nov 1914 – his last. Wretchedly exposed and overrun, heavy casualties briefly thrust the young officer into commanding what remained of his company that day, before he too took a fatal sniper’s bullet.4

Colin Smith@geograph

Colin Smith@geograph

‘The men in uniform were, not surprisingly, disproportionately working-class but those who died were disproportionately the social elites.’5 John Lee-Steere is buried in ‘the Aristocrats Cemetery‘ close to where he fell in Flanders. Much nearer to home, hard by the old Roman road of Stane Street, stands Ockley village hall (r), given by his parents in memory of their personal toll in the Great War’s grim harvest of ‘the brightest and the best’…

[More interior & exterior photos from the Surrey History Centre]

¹ Cresswell, A. In praise of Surrey, Country Life 21 May 2014.
² Monthly Magazine: Surrey Record & Illustrated Journal, vol.2, no.17, 1879.
³ Nairn, I. and Pevsner, N. The buildings of England: Surrey, 1971.
4 Murland, J. Aristocrats go to war, 2010.
5 Winter, JM. The Great War and the British people, 1986.

It’s a slight irony that while our National Parks seek to protect landscapes from the impact of humans, the quintessential chocolate-box image of British countryside idyll will more than likely depict a scene which is wholly man-made. And nowhere is this dichotomy presently highlighted in sharper relief than in the Lune Valley in the north-west of England. From the river’s mouth at Lancaster this verdant finger pushes its way north to the town of Kirkby Lonsdale beyond which the river takes on a flanking escort of fells.

‘For almost the whole of its length, the Lune Valley is a C19 Picturesque creation with park following park’,¹ a string of country house estates (mostly still private residences) forming a cleft between the rising slopes of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Parks yet outwith “the family” – but for how much longer? For a ruling by the Secretary of State for the Environment is expected in the autumn following a public inquiry into proposals to extend national park status hereabouts: ‘No county boundaries, modern nor historic, will change, but areas of Lancashire and Cumbria will have to get used to being in the Yorkshire Dales’. And, it is feared, to tighter planning regulations and greater visitor numbers. This administrative land grab has met with resistance and a group of affected Lune Valley landowners east of Kirkby Lonsdale are among those who have formally made their views known.

see: Boot boys

see: Boot boys

“I live at Whelprigg House (r) and am owner of the 2,500-acre estate. I hope wholeheartedly that this proposal will be firmly and permanently rejected. Nobody can dispute that it is a fine piece of country but “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.” Being the views of Henry Bowring whose family acquired Whelprigg – a C19 house by George Webster and ‘surely the only one in England where the main gate is reached by a mysterious tunnel’ – in 1924.¹

see: The Big Domain

see: The Big Domain

Contiguous to Whelprigg is the Underley Estate, these days running to 3,500 acres and passed by inheritance since 1840. “The reason this is a beautiful part of the country is because it has been managed as such for generations,” says owner Philip Pease, “[yet] Natural England are saying “nice job, but we’ll take it from here”.” Underley Grange (l) is now run by the estate as ‘a sumptuous self-catering house sleeping 16′.

see: Midlife Chic

see: Midlife Chic

Slightly S-E, sitting ‘snugly, as remote and beautiful as anywhere in England,’ is the 2,200-acre Leck Hall estate.² Of ‘the perfect late-Georgian style,’ Leck Hall (r) was purchased in 1952 by the Barons Shuttleworth who removed here from the ancestral seat Gawthorpe Hall which was subsequently made over to the National Trust. The embrace of another national preservation body isn’t welcomed by the present 5th Lord Shuttleworth, however: “I support the objections on behalf of the landowners and farmers represented at the inquiry by Rural Solutions”.

see: Peel Heritage

see: Peel Heritage

Consultancy Rural Solutions was founded in 1990 by Roger Tempest (l), a dynamic, pioneering figure in the world of rural regeneration. Yet Tempest’s superhero name and action man profile rather belie the fact that he is the present representative of one of oldest landed lineages in the kingdom.

see: St Stephens

see: St Stephens

Imposing Grade I Broughton Hall – late Elizabethan with major Palladian accretions (r) – stands at the centre of an estate of some 3,000 Yorkshire acres, most of which have never, ever been sold. But it was touch and go for a while after Tempest took the reigns in his early twenties: “We came very close to having to sell [which] would have blighted my life forever. To go down as the guy who lost it after 900 years? Unthinkable.”

The Rural Solutions consultancy business, borne out of Tempest’s experiences establishing the award-winning Broughton Hall Business Park, was to be later divested but not before applying a similar blueprint, albeit on a rather smaller scale, to the Newton Hall estate in the heart of the Lune Valley – childhood home of one Kitty North, aka Mrs Roger Tempest.

see: Panoramio

see: Panoramio

While only 3 miles distant from the aforementioned Leck Hall, the Norths of Newton are not party to that Rural Solutions submission to the Yorkshire Dales inquiry; crucially, Newton Hall (top left) lies t’other side of the river. This house forms part of the densest concentration of country house work by ‘one of England’s greatest Victorian architectural practices’.

see: Stephen Armstrong

see: Stephen Armstrong

The Lancaster firm of Sharpe, Paley and Austin took up the baton from George Webster in the north-west of England. Prolific church builders, their imprint domestically is all over the Lune Valley. Four miles down river from Newton Hall stands Hornby Castle (r),
see: Karl&Ali/geograph

see: Karl&Ali/geograph

‘a superb piece of architectural scenery, given its present feudal appearance by Paley & Austin’. And in between lies Thurland Castle (l), ‘perhaps even better architecture..nearly everything that can be admired today is Paley & Austin’s work’.³ By now it will be apparent that Handed on has been busily distracting you with lots of pictures of houses…

…except of the one that this post is nominally about. Which is simply because, in this case, a glimpse over the hedge is unfortunately the best this blog can offer. (This book includes a photograph of the main front.)

see: Google Streetview

see: Google Streetview

‘Newton Hall is an excellent example of Paley and Austin’s Jacobethan work – not too big, with light, well-proportioned rooms.’¹ ‘Keeping the bones of a house built c.1678 for Oliver & Jane North, the effect of the irregular E-shaped plan is relaxed, not grand; the garden with its terrace and topiary is especially pleasing.’4 But if Newton is a comparitively modest, inconspicuous example of Paley and Austin’s…

…essays locally, what sets it apart is the fact that it remains the seat of a family who have held lands here for 500 years.

The present incarnation of Newton Hall was built in 1880 for Mr. North North who, as North Burton, ended a run of eight father-to-son inheritances when succeeding to the estates of his great-uncle, Richard Toulmin North, adopting the surname as per, ‘apparently with a straight face’.5 For the previous hundred years or so the principal seat had in fact been Thurland Castle just across the river, the family having upgraded during a burst of late-C18 prosperity. (The old Newton Hall was neglected during this period and eventually pulled down in the 1850s.) But a serious fire at the castle in 1879 occasioned a return ‘home’ and a double commission – restoring the castle prior to its sale, and the new Newton Hall – for the prolific Paley & Austin.

see: Google Streetview

see: Google Streetview

Readers of the edition of The Times of March 17, 1938, would have encountered headlines such as ‘Nazi purge in Austria’ and ‘Hitler’s triumph in Berlin’. Meanwhile, elsewhere in that same issue was the conclusion to a week of extensive reporting from the High Court in the case of North v. North, being a challenge to the will of distinguished soldier Brig-Gen. Bordrigge North, late of Newton Hall, by his son and heir, Edward. Had the latter but the slightest intimation of the ultimate personal consequence of those ominous headlines from Europe he may not have vexed so about what were essentially secondary details of his father’s legacy (inheriting, in any event, the settled Newton Hall estate). The General had been perfectly ‘sound of mind’ determined a perplexed judge, dismissing the son’s claims to the contrary. On New Year’s Day, 1942, Major Edward Tempest Tunstall North, 41, would die on active service.

His was one of three premature deaths which were to affect the family’s male line in the last century. Another of these was Edward North’s own son, Richard, the 43-year-old father of the aforementioned Mrs Roger Tempest, now of Broughton Hall. And while it might be the innovative revitalisation of the latter that has been making the headlines so far this century, where Handed on is concerned it is the relatively invisible, unheralded feats of endurance exemplified by the likes of the Norths of Newton Hall that remain the real ‘country house survival’ story…

[Listing][Newton Business Centre]

¹ Robinson, JM. A guide to the country houses of the North-West, 1991.
² Lycett Green, C. The perfect English country house, 1991.
³ Robinson, JM. Houses of the Lune Valley, Country Life Jan 28/Feb 4, 1982.
4 Hartwell, C. and Pevsner, N. Buildings of England: Lancs: North, 2009.
5 Garnett, E. The dated buildings of South Lonsdale, 2007.

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