Bridgford Hall renovations
2016 is an exciting year for Bridgford Hall, the Grade II listed Georgian building in Bridgford Park.
If you have visited Bridgford Hall in West Bridgford recently you will have found that it is currently undergoing a major refurbishment. The hall has been owned by Rushcliffe Borough Council since 1923 and was occupied by a series of tenants before falling vacant in 2014, prompting the Borough Council to investigate a new use for this important local venue.
Once complete in Summer 2017, the ground floor of the building will house Nottinghamshire County Council’s wedding and registration service, whilst the first and second floors will be converted to seven serviced apartments managed by Birchover.
Over £1.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Enterprise Scheme has been secured to enable the renovations, an additional £800,000 from the Borough Council. The grant is the first awarded in Nottingham under HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme which is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration is not economically viable. Grants fund the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert derelict, vacant buildings into new, usable commercial spaces.
Through the building work there will be activities taking place for local residents to get involved in including:
Hard hat tours
Heritage conservation workshops
Dates for your diary -
On Tuesday 31 May 2016 local historian Peter Hammond led a fascinating sell-out talk about the hidden history of Bridgford Hall at West Bridgford Library. The talk will be repeated on Tuesday 14 February 2017 for anyone unable to make the orginal date. For more details and to book your place please telephone West Bridgford Library on 0115 9816506.
If you have a story to tell about the hall Rushcliffe Borough Council want to hear from you. Contributions will help to bring the history of the building alive and some will be used as the basis of a specially commissioned play to be performed at Bridgford Hall in June 2017 as well as at an exhibition at West Bridgford Library. Two events will be taking place where stories and archive material will be gathered and local people will have chance to meet the creative team behind the play. On Saturday 26 November, 10am - 4pm there’ll be a stall on the Croquet Lawn, Central Avenue as part of the West Bridgford Christmas Lights Switch On and on Thursday 1 December, 3.30pm - 7pm there’ll be drop-in session in the meeting room at West Bridgford Library. Rushcliffe Borough Council are particularly keen to gather an archive of photos of weddings at the hall to be used in a giant mural display - email your images to email@example.com or take them along to a drop-in session. For more information about the project telephone 0115 9148517
The design of Bridgford Hall
Bridgford Hall was built between 1768 and 1771. Its original appearance consisted of the projecting central five-bay wide and 3-storey high brick building. Its original architect is not known (see below) but is a typical building of the period. The southwest wing (that lying left of the main block) is a later addition (a date of 1886 is recorded on a drainpipe) as is that wing lying on the right, which was originally built as a Billiards Room probably by the Heymann family in the mid-19th century. The lower two storey buildings to the left of the hall are the stable ranges and other outbuildings dating to the later 19th century.
Constructed of brick, the foundations rest on solid bedrock which in places also form the floor to the cellars. The brickwork is largely plain apart from the billiards room extension where there is a greater use of decorative features, particularly towards the top beneath the parapet.
The interior is much more elaborate with finely detailed plaster ceilings, decorative cornices and the principal staircase that has many of its original 18th century balusters.
Much of the interior details are hidden by partition walls placed within the hall when it was in use by the council, thus losing some of the original proportions of the historic layout.
Bridgford Hall was listed as a building of special architectural or historic interest in 1949. This makes it one of the earliest Listed Buildings in the country.
The Park and garden
The surrounding park and gardens are the remainder of the 19 acres of land Albert Heymann bought along with the hall in 1883. Its present appearance is somewhat municipal in character and was laid out in this fashion quite recently. The open park areas to the northwest and southeast retain some of the character that the Musters and Heymann families would recognise, though this was largely replaced when, after the Second World War, tennis courts and bowling greens were laid out close to the hall.
At the time Bridgford Hall was being constructed, the Musters family was employing the famous York architect, John Carr, at Colwick. John Carr undertook a number of commissions in Nottinghamshire including Welbeck Abbey, Thoresby Hall, Blyth Hall, Clifton Hall and Langford Hall as well as the now-demolished Nottingham racecourse grandstand (near The Forest) and Nottingham Assembly Rooms. The style of Carr’s work would suggest that Bridgford Hall was not one of his designs.
Though we may never know for sure, we are certain that Carr employed a local builder, Samuel Stretton of Lenton, to undertake the work at Colwick. His work at Colwick meant he was likely to have been introduced to the Musters family. His work can be seen at Wilford House, 1½ miles to the south-west, where some similarities to Bridgford Hall can be seen.
The Musters family and Bridgford Hall
Bridgford Hall was built by Mundy Musters Jnr, Lord of the Manor of West Bridgford in 1768.
Mundy was the great grandson of Millicent Musters who, legend goes, won the estate of West Bridgford (and therefore the land on which the hall sits) in a game of cards in 1679. Millicent Musters was the daughter in law of Sir John Musters of Hornsey, Middlesex who was Lord of the Manor of Colwick. On her death Millicent passed down both the West Bridgford and Colwick titles.
It is not known if the hall replaced an earlier manor house but there appears to be no evidence for such a building. The house was finished in 1774, after Mundy Junior had died, by his son John Musters (pictured below)
John Musters married Sophia Heywood in 1776, a marriage ill-matched at first as John favoured the country and Sophia, a society life. They had three children, the last of whom died a month old in 1779, and she ended up going to the fashionable spa town of Bath to recover. It was probably here that she attracted the attention of a number of societies eligible (and not so eligible) men, including they say the Prince of Wales and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted several pictures of Sophia including the one shown below (Hebe, 1785).
When John found out about his wife’s indiscretions, he had his wife painted out of a portrait of the pair horse riding at Colwick by the artist George Stubbs (the painting’s secret was only discovered in the 1980s and has since been restored to its original state). However, the pair reconciled and when Sophia died in 1819, John was said to be distraught.
John and Sophia’s son John George ‘Jack’ Musters married Mary Ann Chaworth, heiress of the Annesley Hall estate, in 1805. Mary Ann is renowned as the poet Byron’s first love. Byron’s mother wrote of his love for Mary as “love, desperate love, the worst of all maladies…” and wrote the poem “To Mary” in 1806.
RACK'D by the flames of jealous rage,
By all her torments deeply curst,
Of hell-born passions far the worst,
What hope my pangs can now assuage?
I tore me from thy circling arms,
To madness fir'd by doubts and fears,
Heedless of thy suspicious tears,
Nor feeling for thy feign'd alarms.
Resigning every thought of bliss,
Forever, from your love I go,
Reckless of all the tears that flow,
Disdaining thy polluted kiss.
No more that bosom heaves for me,
On it another seeks repose,
Another riot's on its snows,
Our bonds are broken, both are free.
No more with mutual love we burn,
No more the genial couch we bless,
Dissolving in the fond caress;
Our love o'erthrown will ne'er return.
Though love than ours could ne'er be truer,
Yet flames too fierce themselves destroy,
Embraces oft repeated cloy,
Ours came too frequent, to endure.
You quickly sought a second lover,
And I too proud to share a heart,
Where once I held the whole, not part,
Another mistress must discover.
Though not the first one, who hast blest me,
Yet I will own, you was the dearest,
The one, unto my bosom nearest;
So I conceiv'd, when I possest thee.
Even now I cannot well forget thee,
And though no more in folds of pleasure,
Kiss follows kiss in countless measure,
I hope you sometimes will regret me.
And smile to think how oft were done,
What prudes declare a sin to act is,
And never but in darkness practice,
Fearing to trust the tell-tale sun.
And wisely therefore night prefer,
Whose dusky mantle veils their fears,
Of this, and that, of eyes and ears,
Affording shades to those that err.
Now, by my foul, 'til most delight
To view each other panting, dying,
In love's extatic posture lying,
Grateful to feeling, as to sight.
And had the glaring God of Day,
( As formerly of Mars and Venus )
Divulg'd the joys which pass'd between us.
Regardless of his peeping ray.
Of love admiring such a sample,
The Gods and Goddesses descending,
Had never fancied us offending,
But wisely followed our example.
John Musters died in 1827 and the estates passed to Jack that year. The family maintained Colwick Hall as their primary residence, letting Bridgford Hall out to tenants. In 1831 the Musters family were caught in Reform Bill riots and Colwick Hall was attacked. Mary Ann was an invalid at the time and was carried out into the shrubbery while the house was ransacked. The stress of this encounter was such that she died three months later. Jack survived her until 1849. In 1840 Bridgford Hall was let to Lewis Heymann. Financial pressures in the later 19th century led to many estates being sold off, such as the Duke of Newcastle’s Park Estate in Nottingham. John Chaworth Musters, grandson of Jack, followed suit and started to sell off his Colwick and West Bridgford estates. Maps of the proposed suburbs were prepared and the first plots were put up for sale in 1880. The hall and 19 acres of land (equating to the park and bridge field) were sold to Albery Heymann in 1883 for the sum of £10,587. The remaining portions of the West Bridgford estate passed to John Patricius ‘Patrick’ Musters upon the death of John Chaworth Musters in 1887. He was living in Norway at this time and returned to England in 1888 to Annesley to manage the estates. He sold the last portions of West Bridgford in 1889 thus ending its association with the Musters.
The Heymann family and Bridgford Hall
From 1840 onwards Bridgford Hall was let to Lewis Heymann, a prominent Nottinghamshire lace manufacturer, credited as the inventor of the lace curtain. Lewis was of German Jewish origin who arrived in the city in the 1830s attracted by Nottingham's growing reputation across Europe for lace manufacturing. He set up a partnership with the Alexander Brothers of Hamburg designing and making lace curtains from his warehouse, which still stands within Nottingham Lace Market at the junction of Stoney Street and Plumptre Place. It is said that Lewis walked from West Bridgford to his offices every day. Lewis was certainly popular in Nottingham society, serving as an Alderman for the city council and was also elected Mayor in 1857.
Lewis died in 1869 and most of his wealth was shared between his two sons, William Henry and Albert. In 1883 Albert Heymann purchased Bridgford Hall from John Chaworth Musters for the sum of £10,587, along with 19 acres of land (equating to the park and bridge field). He extended the hall in 1886, principally the wing to the southwest, the date marked on the drainpipes, and is likely to have added the billiard room extension on the northeast side about the same time. Albert had many local philanthropic interests throughout his life and he became the first Chairman of West Bridgford Urban District Council in 1895, marking the occasion with grand bazaar in the grounds of the hall. In 1923 he sold the hall on generous terms to WBUDC to use as their offices and the surround gardens and grounds were opened up as a public park for the enjoyment of local residents.
A section of newspaper dated 19th February 1886 has been found under the floor boards in the Georgian part of the building. Unfortunately the title is not complete (possibly Hotel Courier) but the readable areas contain notices of tavern and hotel for sale as well as adverts for wine and spirit merchants.
An empty packet of Player’s Navy Cut medium cigarettes was also found under floor boards in the area of the Hall dating from the Victorian period. This design dates from the 1920’s in an era when illustrations of fit, young military men were often used to show that smoking cigarettes was manly, and even patriotic.
Another interesting and more recent find, is a ticket for a special performance at the Tudor cinema for the King’s Silver Jubilee. Issued by West Bridgford Urban District Council, celebrations for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary took place across the nation on Monday 6th May 1935.
Finds have also been unearthed outside the Hall as while digging drainage channels a horses tooth was uncovered in the stable block area and a Victorian well has also been uncovered.
No doubt as the project progresses more interesting artefacts will be found so keep posted to see what happens next.