The Built Heritage
Cottesmore History and Archaeology Group is seeking, as one of its current projects, to investigate in depth the history of Cottesmore Hall (which, alas, was demolished in the 1970s). This entry presents a summary of our current knowledge, but we aim to supplement it from time to time. Watch this space!
It is believed that there had been a manor house on the site of Cottesmore Hall since the early 15th century. It was at one time owned by the Durant family; two hundred years later it had passed to the Harrington family, and later to the Fanshawes, relatives of the Noel family.
In any event, at some stage in the 18th century (exact date unrecorded) the old manor house was demolished, and a new Hall constructed by the Noel family, possibly for use as a hunting lodge. There is no evidence that it was ever lived in by the Noels, and indeed in 1796 the Lowther family took up tenancy of the Hall. There are records of various other tenants having occupied the Hall during the 19th century, including Richard Westbrook Baker (agent of the Gainsborough estates), Sir Richard Sutton and the resoundingly-named Major W. Worsley Worswick. However, it is clear that the Hall was not continuously occupied - there was apparently nobody in residence at the time of the 1841 and 1861 national censuses.
We have a description and valuation of the Hall made in 1843, which reads as follows:
“The property of the Earl of Gainsborough called a Mansion £4000. Premises called the Stable Yard adjoining or contiguous thereto £2000, and also the Stable Yard and premises situate west of the aforementioned house and Stable Yard and adjoining thereto £1000.
“The mansion and premises adjoining are substantially built with stone and brick, with strong stone or brick party walls. The premises west are stone built, part thatched and part tiled, and consist of a groom’s dwelling beside stables and other premises as formerly occupied by the Hon. Henry Cecil Lowther.”
From the latter part of the century until 1927, the Hall was once again occupied by the Lonsdales – it was for a long time the home of the Dowager Countess, who lived there, after the death in 1882 of her husband the Third Earl, with her daughter Verena and son-in-law Lord Randolph Churchill (not the more famous one of that name!). Lady Lonsdale is said to have been very generous, giving blankets to widows and the poor, and presents to the children at Christmas. She died in 1917, and at some point Verena and her husband separated – it is believed that Lord Randolph continued to live alone in the Hall for some years.
In 1927 the Earl of Gainsborough sold the Hall and its contents. Quoting from the auction notice, as published in the Lincoln, Stamford and Rutland Mercury for 18 March 1927, the contents included:
“The whole of the Antique and Modern FURNITURE, comprising: A good-toned PIANOFORTE in Walnut case, Mahogany and Walnut Cabinets, Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite Chairs, Sheraton Writing Tables, Card and Centre Tables, Mahogany Telescope Dining Table, Mahogany Sideboards, Dumb Waiter, Long-Case Clock, Oak Coffer.”
The buyer was the Marquis of Bute, who presumably wished to use it for hunting purposes – there is no evidence that the family ever took up residence. In the following year, during restoration works, the Hall caught fire, and the roof was destroyed. Repairs were, however, made and the Hall continued to be used as a “hunting box”. For some of the period after 1927 the Cottesmore hounds were kennelled there, in buildings on the site of the current Eassons garage.
The Hall is said to have been occupied by a group of nuns at some time during the inter-war period. However, in 1939 it was requisitioned by the War Office, and occupied for a time by some 40 evacuees from London – we have the memories of one these, taken from a radio interview she gave – the experience was in general a pleasant one, she said, and “we suffered none of the hardships that were the lot of so many evacuees”. Towards the end of the War, the Hall was occupied by US Airmen.
After the War, however, the Hall was abandoned and ended up as a shell. A corn drying plant was installed on part of the land, and demolition eventually became inevitable – it finally took place in 1974. The houses of Cresswell Drive and Debdale now stand on the site of the Hall and its grounds, although parts of the outbuildings have been converted into housing.