The Stone House
In 1558 the whole manor and demesne of Stanford Hall was granted to Robert Raynes by Mary I. His grandson built a stone house on the site of the current Stanford Hall c.1641 but it proved too costly to maintain and it was sold to a London Alderman, Thomas Lewes in 1661.
Engraving from Vitruvius Britannicus published in 1739. (The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford; Vet.A4 e.3, Plate of Stanford Hall).
An engraving of the Estate published in 1739 shows a 7 bay central block flanked by two rectangular pavilions set in formal parterres and gardens complete with fountains and statuary. To the east was a service courtyard and beyond was a walled garden.
Charles Vere Dashwood and the Brick House
Charles Vere Dashwood inherited Stanford Hall and rebuilt the house in brick between 1771 and 1774. This house comprised the central block of the Hall that exists today and it was flanked by single storey curved wings, which have been subsequently modified but still bear a close resemblance to the originals.
It was probably Dashwood who had the grounds laid out in the fashionable parkland style at the same time and the parkland to the south of the Hall has changed little since the 18th century.
South Elevation of Stanford Hall 1887 with a single storey service building visible to the right. (Reproduced by permission of English Heritage).
The Hall appears to have been unaltered externally by the Dashwoods with the exception of a piecemeal service courtyard to the east of the Hall.
North Elevation of Stanford Hall 1887. (Reproduced by permission of English Heritage).
From the north, the very plain Palladian front facade of the Hall with its delicate curving wings appeared to sit amidst woodland with trees and shrubs obscuring the service offices and the stables. On the south side, there were more trees between the Hall and the parkland than survive today.
The Ratcliffs and Stanford Hall
In 1887 the Estate was sold to Richard Ratcliff, a partner of a Burton brewery, who made significant changes to the Hall. New 2 storey wings were added either side of the central block. On the west side a small 2 storey pavilion was added at the northwest corner of the wing, whilst on the east side a large pedimented 3 storey service wing projected forward into the parkland. A portico was also added to create a grander entrance than the Dashwood’s stone doorcase.
Stanford Hall as illustrated in The Builder February 1892 showing the alterations made by Ratcliff to the north elevation. (The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford; N.1863c.1, Plate of Stanford Hall).
Ratcliff also substantially altered the rest of the Estate. The northern end of the Walled Garden was transformed by the addition of a new peach house and vineries that ran the length of the northern wall.
Sir Julien Cahn and Stanford Hall
In 1927 Kathleen Ratcliff married and sold the Estate to Julien Cahn, later Sir Julien Cahn, a wealthy local entrepreneur in the furniture industry. Cahn transformed the Hall, replacing the 2 Victorian pavilions with wings that were almost symmetrical to each other adding cast stone pilasters on the north elevation.
North elevation of the Hall after the addition of the Theatre in 1937.
The Hall is said to have been gutted by Cahn. Certainly every room was designed in an array of different period styles using sumptuous fabrics and expensive materials. The most impressive interior was added later, however, in 1937 when Cahn commissioned Cecil Aubrey Masey and White Allom to create a 352-seat Art Deco private Theatre.
Photograph showing the interior of the Theatre shortly after its completion. It includes the long-lost painted screen across the stage. (Reproduced by permission of English Heritage).
Sir Julien Cahn died in his Library in 1944. The following year, Lady Cahn sold the Estate to the Co-operative Union and the Hall became its training college.
The Co-operative Union at Stanford Hall
The Co-operative set about transforming the Hall into accommodation for the rapidly growing college adding a 4 storey accommodation wing, Abbotts Wing, to the west of the Badminton Court wing in 1956 and later removing Cahn’s Art Deco theatre foyer on the south side of the Hall to replace it with a new large dining room.
To begin with the Co-operative tried to preserve the Cahn interiors and replace and redecorate sympathetically but as time passed, the marble bathrooms were removed, alterations made and the decorative schemes lost.
The former Dining Room in use as the Rae Hall Lecture Room. (Reproduced by permission of the Co-operative Union).
The Co-operative also had ambitious plans to build a village on the Estate but this was widely opposed and permission was never granted. The College had long struggled to finance itself and had used an array of schemes, from allowing the public to buy season tickets to use the pool and sports facilities to renting part of the site to the police, to try to make the Estate sustainable. However, as the maintenance backlog increased, the Co-operative decided to sell and return to its earlier base in Manchester.
Stanford Hall in the 21st Century
In 2001, the Estate was sold to Raynsway Properties Limited. A planning application was made in 2003 to convert the Hall into apartments and to build a hotel with conference facility and leisure complex but this application was withdrawn. In 2005 a second planning application was submitted for a similar scheme but the application was not determined and the death of Mr Raynsway saw the Estate returned to the market.
The developer Chek Whyte purchased the Estate in 2007. Planning permission was granted in 2009 for a retirement home and a spa to be built on the former service yard and to the east of the Walled Garden to fund the restoration of the Hall and listed buildings, with the exception of the Lido, which was to be demolished.
Mr Whyte filed for voluntary bankruptcy in 2009 and the Estate was later purchased on behalf of the Duke of Westminster in October 2011 with a view to creating a Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre.